eBay Makes Private Auctions Standard

ID masking change comes amid wave of policy shifts affecting sellers.

by Auctiva.com staff writer
- Mar 18, 2008

Private auctions, which have long been an option for eBay sellers—albeit, a controversial one—have become the standard auction format in the San Jose-based e-commerce giant’s listings pages.

Calling it an effort to combat fraud by protecting members' identities, eBay in March began masking User IDs for bidders on all auction-style listings on its eBay.com and eBay Motors sites.

In an announcement to eBay members, Matt Halprin, vice president of Global Trust & Safety at eBay, said the decision came after an experimental ID-masking program launched in January 2007 on auction-style listings of $200 or more "virtually eliminated" the incidence of scams.

Private listings had been an option for sellers on eBay for many years. They were originally designed to let users to bid on an auction without their User ID being publicly displayed in the bidding history. Only the seller could see who bid on their listing. This was touted as a way to guarantee privacy for members that were in the market for, say, pharmaceuticals or items of a sexual or otherwise private nature.

For people bidding on big-ticket items such as cars or jewelry, private listings also provided assurance that scammers could not target them with fake "second chance offers."

However, among many eBay users, private listings had come to be thought of as a common device of crooked sellers, such as dealers of counterfeit merchandise and shill bidders—those who bid up the price of their own items using an alternate ID.

The tweak to eBay's auction structure came amid a spate of policy changes that had some frequent users of the global online auction platform up in arms. In response to changes to its fee structure and feedback policy, sellers staged a boycott of eBay that began in February and reportedly cut the number of listings by 13 percent during the first week.

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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