Wednesday, February 06, 2008

EBay to ban negative feedback by sellers..

.. but not from buyers.

This is an interesting one. A small UK study Ashley Theunissen and I did in 2005/6 seemed to reveal that both sellers and buyers found leaving feedback by far the most useful and widely-used instrument they had at their disposal for resolving and avoiding disputes on eBay. Other options such as eBay's own on line mediation and negotiation procedures or Payer Protection Schemes were by contrast barely used, and both credit card and PayPal guarantee systems were often inappropriate to the dispute in question, either because a credit card was not used or in the case of PayPal, because the many qualifications for the scheme were not met or the account had been emptied.

However much game theory work since has also shown that feedback is highly unreliable as an index of trustworthiness of sellers, at least partly because negative feedback was very rarely given by buyers who were than one time eBay users for fear of retaliation. Feedback can also be gamed by sellers by a multitude of small value transations to build a shiney feedback profile, after which a large value no-delivery fraud is undertaken. Hence the preponderance of both sellers and buyers with 99.99% satisfaction ratings on eBay. eBay has been trying to address the second problem with its "Feedback 2.0" , which allowed a more granular breakdown of how an eBay seller had acquired a certain feedback score over multiple transactions, but clearly this has not been felt to be enough to provide trustworthy guidance to buyers.

Given also the growth of eBay as a site for Power Sellers, quasi professional sellers and the like, trying to turn feedback back into a true index of the trustworthiness of a seller by restricting retaliation tactics seems like a smart move. Sellers however are of course not best pleased, according to the Beeb report. In our small survey, 60% of sellers had left negative feedback, as opposed to 40% of buyers, so this looks like a big change in practice for UK sellers. It will be ve-ry interesting to see how this pans out. is eBay trying to forestall buyers leaving for other auction sites where they feel they are more likely to get good service from buyers, or at least have a better chance of picking a trustworthy merchant?? Or is it truely as reports say trying to provide a better "customer environment"? Pangloss would love to know if anyone has more info.

In the meantime, what we continue to need is a "true" non-gameable index of cross-site reputation - something from the distributed identity stable, perhaps. So far we are at the very early attempts stage in this field - see eg QDOS from the garlik folk, where Pangloss mysteriously finds herself compared to authors, footballers and Eastenders bit actors from time to time. Still, at least it's a start..

5 comments:

Alison said...

I'm pretty sour about the change, not because I've ever left negative feedback for a buyer (I've had numerous idiots, but no fraudulent buyers) but because I don't leave buyer feedback until they've left feedback. The idea is that they should tell me if they've got a problem before they put it on the site.

I'm not sure what odds it makes though, as I can still leave feedback of the form 'positive -- buyer prevaricated for a week and then sent payment in Ugandan bahts'.

eBay's being pretty sour to small sellers anyway; they're massively increasing final value fees as well (they will be nearly as high as the 10% taken in traditional auctions), but discounting those 40% for big sellers. Makes you really feel valued as a small seller. Oddly, the fact that Amazon is giving real competition has made things worse for small sellers, not better.

Brian said...

"However much game theory work since has also shown that feedback is highly unreliable as an index of trustworthiness of sellers"

I'd be interested in reading this work; would you mind posting a few citations?

Anonymous said...

My opinion is it seems that ebay may be facing a huge lawsuit upcoming buy giving sellers the only option for giving positive feedback to buyers while denying sellers the write to leave neutral or negative feedback for bad transactions.
Freedom of speech is the concept of being able to speak freely without censorship. The right to freedom of speech is guaranteed under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The synonymous term "freedom of expression" is sometimes preferred, since the right is not confined to verbal speech only but is understood to protect any act of expression, receiving and imparting information or ideas, writing etc... regardless of the medium used.

Anonymous said...

hi, great information and insight on your blog! i just listed my first auction on ebay. would you check it out? thanks so much!
jenn

here's the link:
http://tinyurl.com/4eg5eb

Anonymous said...

With the high and constant increasing fees Ebay charges and the process of constantly crapping on the seller. I have taken my selling business elsewhere. Ebay has given all the power to the buyer and therefore you cannot trust the feedback of buyers as sellers are unable to respond.