Coming right before the holiday selling season, eBay policy changes related to Top-rated Seller requirements, feedback and returns would normally be unwelcome. But today's 2013 Fall Seller Update appears to give sellers a much-needed break.
Where recent policy updates have required significant adjustments to listings and business practices, today's release contained few distractions for merchants gearing up for the busy season ahead.
"With the exception of the updated category and item specifics, I was glad to see no drastic changes where listings are concerned," says Rebecca Miller, Auctiva.com product manager and an eBay seller of more than 13 years.
The changes announced today are aimed at providing sellers "stability and support" to promote strong holiday sales, and will require "little or no changes to your listings," confirms Michael Jones, eBay's vice president of merchant development. "Just continue your commitment to great service to enjoy the benefits."
Sellers work hard to become Top-rated—and maintain their TRS status. The proposed grace period should help them keep it when they are in danger of losing it
Relief for Top-rated Sellers
Starting Aug. 20, Top-rated Sellers who fall behind in the requirements will have a two-month grace period to get "back on track," eBay says. During the grace period, sellers will continue to be eligible for discounts and other Top-rated Seller benefits, as long as other performance requirements are met.
Auctiva's Miller says this change will be a relief for hard-working merchants, and she'll be glad to see it take effect.
"Sellers work hard to become Top-rated Sellers—and maintain their TRS status," she says. "The proposed grace period should help them keep it when they are in danger of losing it."
To qualify to receive a grace period, you must have been a Top-rated Seller for three consecutive months, uploaded tracking information for at least 85 percent of U.S. transactions within the stated handling time, and met all other performance requirements, eBay notes.
Clearer feedback removal guidelines
eBay has also updated its Feedback Removal policy, giving clearer guidelines on how it will handle both automatic and requested removals, starting July 31.
"Hopefully the safeguards that will be in place to protect sellers from unfair neutral or negative feedback will go far enough," Miller adds.
eBay says it will automatically remove feedback and low detailed seller ratings if, for example, the feedback was left by a nonpaying buyer or one who is otherwise found to have abused the system, or when bad feedback is the result of a natural disaster, postal strike or other disruption beyond the seller's control.
eBay reiterated that it awards automatic 5-star DSRs when the seller has followed "best practices" like shipping within one day or offering free shipping.
Fill out listing fields like item specifics, sales tax, return policy, postage information and payment methods, and make sure there's no contradictory information
Feedback may be removed on request if the comment contains inappropriate language, is unrelated to the seller's performance or shows the buyer didn't take into account pertinent listing data, such as item condition, eBay further states. Other reasons for feedback removal might be a buyer leaving feedback for the wrong merchant, or when an eBay or PayPal issue negatively impacted the transaction.
eBay still encourages sellers to work with buyers toward revising their feedback before requesting removal. It further suggests, as a preventive tactic, filling out all pertinent listing fields, like item specifics, sales tax, return policy, postage information and payment methods, and making sure there's no contradictory information in the listing.
More flexibility in returns hub
To encourage more sellers to use the Managed Returns hub, eBay is adding flexibility to the process. Starting in mid-August, Managed Returns merchants will be able to offer replacement merchandise as an alternative to refunds.
Additionally, eBay will guarantee that return shipping costs will never exceed the original item shipping cost when labels are created using eBay's label program.
Further changes to the returns process include the ability to set up return-shipping rules, issue refunds without a return, and giving buyers a detailed list of reasons for requesting a return.
eBay also announced discounted monthly subscriptions for national vehicle listings, starting the week of Aug. 19. Additionally, the week of Sept. 10 will bring category and item specifics updates to certain categories, and an expanded U.S. Coins catalog.
Read more about eBay's 2013 Fall Seller Update.