eBay Announces Fall Seller Update

Final policy changes for 2011 meant to help sellers prep for the holiday season.

by Auctiva.com staff writer
- Jul 12, 2011

eBay sellers will have more characters to describe their items, come this fall, but they may have to adjust their return policies once new rules take effect, eBay announced today.

These were just two of the changes eBay announced as part of its last seller update for 2011. Dinesh Lathi, eBay's vice president of Seller and Buyer Experience, made the announcement on eBay's General Announcements board, adding that the changes are meant to help sellers prepare for the upcoming selling season, increase trust among shoppers and help attract more buyers.

While some of the changes will make merchants happy, others will not, according to Auctiva Product Analyst Rebecca Miller.

Longer titles, longer return windows

Increasing the number of characters allowed in listing titles should be a plus for merchants, notes Miller, an eBay seller of more than 11 years. Currently, sellers have 55 characters to describe items in the title field, but starting in September, they'll have 80.

"It'll be nice to have more characters to work with," Miller says. "There's been many a time when I've wanted to have just a few more characters for my title. It's like performing surgery sometimes, trying to pick and choose which words to leave out and which ones to try and abbreviate in order to have the most well rounded title that describes what I'm selling."

However, sellers may be less thrilled about eBay's new policy for return policies. Starting next year, eBay will do away with the three- and seven-day return options, and will require sellers who accept returns to offer a cash-refund option. Merchants will then have to choose between a 14-, 30- or 60-day return timeframe.

Also, beginning next month, sellers who take returns will have to specify "money back or exchange" as a refund method.

Though eBay says longer timeframes for returns make buyers happy, some sellers worry buyers could take advantage of this, as one seller notes in an eBay forum.

"eBay taking away the three- to seven-day return policy leaves my diamond items or others out there for possible switching of stones, etc.," the seller writes. "This also gives the buyer more time to hang on to it, wear it, shop for something else and then decide to return it. I am really scared."

Still, Lathi reminds sellers that they don't have to accept returns. They can specify "no returns" in their listings.

We know sellers want to do the right thing for their customers

Feedback and buyer protection

Other policy changes announced are meant to increase trust among buyers and sellers, Lathi notes. For instance, eBay will adjust how it handles open buyer protection cases. Currently, if a buyer files a buyer protection case against a seller—even if the seller is found to not be liable—the number of cases filed affect the seller's performance rating. But after Aug. 31 that won't be the case if the seller tries to resolve the issue quickly before a case is filed.

"We know sellers want to do the right thing for their customers—that's why eBay always encourages buyers to contact the seller before filing a case," Lathi notes.

But not through an e-mail address included in a listing. Starting Oct. 1, eBay will be more restrictive with its links policy. "Sellers will not be able to submit a new listing or re-listing if an e-mail address or link that doesn't help buyers transact safely and efficiently on eBay is included in the listing," Lathi notes.

Item specifics and catalog changes

Item Specifics will also soon be required in additional categories like Coins, Computers & Networking, eBay Motors Parts & Accessories, consumer Electronics, Tickets, Collectibles and eBay Motors vehicles. Beginning Sept. 15, GPS devices will have to be listed using the eBay catalog even if no item match is found.

Also in September, eBay will change the way it displays tickets that are for sale to "make eBay a top destination for ticket buyers," and give sellers more exposure by showing all tickets for sale on one event page. Merchants will notice a new tickets catalog in August.

"Each of these initiatives advances eBay as a top shopping destination—without the need for significant change to your listings or business practices," Lathi says. "Bottom line: you focus squarely on getting ready for a busy and profitable holiday season."

Sellers can check eBay's Seller Checklist to get more details on the new policies and when each item takes effect.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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