eBay sellers will have more to worry about in 2009 than keeping their New Year's resolutions. They'll also have to remember to adjust all of their listings to make sure they're in compliance with new site requirements.
Beginning Jan. 15, eBay listings may no longer include references to paper payment options and shipping and handling fee maximums will take effect for items in select categories. By March, sellers must also state a return policy.
"These policies will go a long way to help all eBay members buy and sell with confidence," notes Dinesh Lathi, eBay's vice president of seller experience.
Sellers who don't make the appropriate changes will not be allowed to list or relist their products. eBay announced the new requirements last fall but decided to hold off on enforcing them until after the holidays, "given the breadth of changes we're asking sellers to make," explained Nathan Etter, director of seller experience.
eBay began phasing out paper payment options in October when it required sellers to list items with at least one of its approved electronic payment options: PayPal, credit or debit cards or ProPay.
Caps on shipping costs for books, movies and DVDs, music and video games came after buyers complained that these fees were too high, sending them to purchase the products in other venues. Company officials hope imposing the caps will bring customers back to the site.
Stating a return policy should also help reassure buyers while helping sellers at the same time, according to eBay.
"Research shows that difficulty in returning items is the most common shopping barrier talked about by buyers," eBay reports. "As a result, sellers who clearly spell out return policies in their listings have an edge on the competition."
That doesn't mean sellers have to accept returns, however. In fact, they can merely state their policy as "No Returns Accepted." Those who do not choose their own will have a default policy added to their listings.
But sellers who decide to take returns must tell customers how much time they have to return goods, how refunds will be made and who will pay shipping fees for returned items.
The changes will probably make buyers happy, but it's putting restraints on sellers, says PowerSeller Rebecca Miller.
"eBay today is nothing like the eBay of the 'good old days,' where sellers could set their own terms, accept whatever payment methods they want and leave appropriate feedback for deadbeat buyers," Miller muses.
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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.