eBay Reacts to Pending Royal Mail Strike

Site to remove dispatch time from seller ratings.

by Auctiva.com staff writer
- Oct 12, 2009

Following the decision of the Communication Workers Union to hold a national strike sometime this month, eBay U.K. has decided to temporarily remove the option for buyers to rate U.K. merchants on dispatch times.

On Oct.8, members of the Communication Workers Union voted 2-1 in favor of a national strike. Dates for the strikes have not been set, but walkouts could begin as early as next week, according to news reports. To prevent the strikes from affecting merchants' Detailed Seller Ratings, eBay U.K. will temporarily remove dispatch times from its ratings criteria once the national strike begins. The suspension will continue throughout the strike and for a short time after, eBay notes.

"As many of eBay's sellers rely heavily on Royal Mail, we are working with a number of alternative postal carriers to ensure sellers can provide the levels of service that are critical in the run up to Christmas," eBay reports. "eBay has also expressed its concerns directly to business secretary Rt. Hon. Lord Mandelson, insisting that it is unacceptable that so many hard-working small businesses selling on eBay are victims of a dispute that is beyond their control."

eBay recommends buyers choose alternative postal carriers to deliver their items, or pick up goods themselves if they can. The auction site also reminds buyers to communicate with sellers throughout the sales process to prevent frustrations.

"We understand that many items are suitable for postage by Royal Mail only and if that is the case, please make sure you contact the buyer after purchase to inform them of potential delays," eBay suggests. "We also recommend that you state this in your listing description for the duration of the industrial action. Please remember that overseas buyers may not be aware of this industrial action, so please make sure you communicate this to them also as the suspension of Dispatch time DSR does not apply to overseas buyers."

Millions of letters and parcels remain undelivered as a result of the rolling strikes against Royal Mail

Amazon, which uses Royal Mail to deliver items weighing more than 500 grams, is talking to other carriers as a result of the possible national strike. However, the company noted that it had not cancelled "any long-term contracts" with Royal Mail.

Mark Lewis, eBay U.K.'s managing director, wrote a letter to the U.K.'s Secretary of State on behalf of sellers.

"Some 120,000 businesses are currently registered and making a living on eBay.co.uk. While they work with a variety of postal suppliers, many rely heavily on Royal Mail for their deliveries and are understandably concerned that any postal strike will cause huge disruption at a time when they can least afford it," he notes. "These sellers tell us that Christmas typically accounts for one-fifth of their annual sales and despite the tough economic conditions, they're successfully growing their businesses and investing for future growth. Any barrier to them delivering their goods could dent public confidence in a growing and increasingly important part of the economy.

"I therefore urge you to consider these sellers as you encourage both the Royal Mail and the CWU to reach a negotiated settlement and to bring this dispute to a swift end," he adds.

Millions of letters and parcels remain undelivered as a result of the rolling strikes against Royal Mail. Some people have gone up to 10 days without correspondence.

"We are really sorry for the impact industrial action in parts of the U.K. is having on our customers," a Royal Mail spokesman tells reporters. "We're doing all we can to keep mail moving and the great majority of deliveries and collections are taking place in all areas… We understand the impact delays have on our customers and so we are focusing as many resources as we can into those areas of London most affected by industrial action, which includes deploying management volunteers from other parts of the country."

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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