eBay calls for solid front vs fake items

20 May 2009

As writer Rex Stout once said, "“There are two kinds of statistics: the kind you look up and the kind you make up”. So when eBay UK's Press Office announced Monday of a new global anti-counterfeit campaign, we know that statistics can be written with any slant you like:

“In 2008, eBay hosted 2.7 billion listings globally, with only 0.15% of them identified as potentially counterfeit.”

0.15%” of 2.7 billion (assuming a yank billion) equates to 405,000 potentially fake listings. Yes, almost half a million is a fair amount. And yes, I’m slanting it now.

But fair play to eBay who are pushing their Verified Rights Owner program (VeRO) into the limelight under the banner of a “Fighting Fakes with eBay” campaign. eBay established VeRO in 1997 to comply with the regulations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Under VeRO, legit owners use their own savvy wheeler-dealing instincts to identify and remove suspect items from the site before buyers get a chance to get fleeced by them. At the time of writing, the number of people in the VeRO program stands at 31,000 globally.

However, VeRo has had a reputation of pulling wrong items off the virtual shelves with false suspensions and intellectual copyright violations.  This is because of eBay's pact with the DMCA, where provisions were set in place years ago to protect companies like eBay from accountability for fraudulent merchandise or copyright infringement, as long as eBay pulls any items claimed to be fraudulent.

This means that even if false claims are made out of abuse or malice, eBay is likely to pull the items to 'keep their noses clean'. If you have been a long time eBay seller, you've probably had to deal with this with potential loss of income, no matter how close you've kept your reputation to 100% as possible.

So what's eBay's counter-explanation to all this? Doug McCallum, Senior Vice President for eBay Europe, intoned: "Counterfeiters' sophistication keeps increasing, making it ever harder to differentiate a genuine item from a fake.... Clearly, as we do not have the expertise to assess the authenticity of every branded product, we are unable to tackle the problem alone.”

I like Mr. McCallum's speech that essentially shuffles around the issue, but in our quest to find bargain deals on an online marketplace at low prices, we have already taken responsibility to expect these kinks in the system. If lack of money and expertise is the problem on eBay's part, why not “outsource the solution to customers for free”, seeing as it’s in the customer’s interest to have the issue resolved?


  • Cal
    Good to see a decent post on this blog...
  • Nobby
    "... Clearly, as we do not have the expertise to assess the authenticity of every branded product, we are unable to tackle the problem alone.” What he should have said is "... Clearly, as we do not have the expertise to assess the authenticity of ANY branded product, we are unable to tackle the problem alone.” They never actually see any of the products sold by eBay sellers, so how can they assess the authenticity?
  • Amanda H.
    I don't know why ebay are bothered with this. "Best Match" keeps you from buying fake goods. Ok, so it keeps you from buying original stuff too, but it works for me. My OH wanted a Luis Vuitton bag, ended up looking at Volkswagon Clutch cables. Job Done, thanks ebay.
  • Kev H.
    This is rich - I've ended up with counterfeit goods on 3 separate occasions. Twice I got my money back via PayPal, and once I didn't. On the one occasion I didn't I was asked the send the item back to the seller and once they had confirmed this then I would receive my money back. This in conflict with the other two occurrences where I was advised NOT to send anything back. Not to mention if an item is suspected to be counterfeit should it really be returned to the seller so they can merely flog it again?! I queried this and the answer I got was that each case was judged on its own merits - the answer I heard was: "We don't give the benefit of the doubt"!
  • Mike
    In 1975 Chancellor Denis Healey announced that the treasury would adopt the US billion thenceforth.
  • Jack
    These VeRO polcies are just fucking annoying - its harder to find cheapo fake items nowadays that offer value for money. However it is good for those that dont want to get caught out, or don't realise it is just a Sony style MP3 player :D
  • Smiff
    'why not “outsource the solution to customers for free”' yeah, you could have a system where buyers get to leave feedback on each transaction to let other buyers know if a seller sells fakes... oh wait, we already have that. so what's the point of this Vero thing? I think its to let companies try to control their grey market, which is b**sh*t, they should not be allowed to prevent resale in a free market.
  • Craig
    eBay / Paypal don't give a monkeys about consumers. I was sent a fake software CD that clearly differed from the photos on the listing. eBay / Paypal's response was send it back by recorded post & pay the post charges yourself to get a refund? Bastards
  • Police B.
    [...] on from yesterday’s article detailing eBay’s new and recursive initiative to prevent its customers from being defrauded, by [...]
  • Nookster
    Well, your latest article was taken down pretty quick, it's still listed in HUKD's side panel BTW :D
  • K.
    Sometimes us the consumers don't mind buying fake Gucci sunglasses for $30 on ebay:)
  • eBay B.
    [...] The root question that has been “answered” with numerous statistics on both sides is whether eBay is a worldwide marketplace for counterfeit goods, as we discussed back in May. [...]

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