The leading auctioneer, which has drawn the wrath of users for repeated outages during the last several months, issued a new policy on reserve auctions that has the community inflamed. During a reserve auction, a seller sets a minimum price for the sale of an item. That price is often not revealed to potential buyers and bids many times start far below it. In some cases, items do not sell.
Scheduled to take effect August 30, eBay's new policy states that sellers pay a $1 fee for each auction on which they set a reserve price. The new policy also requires sellers to set the minimum bid price at no less than 25 percent of the reserve price.
In protest, eBay sellers rushed to message boards on eBay and AuctionWatch to vent their frustrations. Sellers outraged by the new fee posted multiple listings. Other's complained that the new policy on minimum bidding would discourage bidding.
One seller's message summed up the opinion of many irate users: "eBay, have you lost your mind?"
eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove tried to assure sellers that the company hadn't.
Pursglove said bidders complained about reserve auctions and that the company's administrative costs to deal with these complaints and incomplete auctions are high. Because eBay does not publish reserve prices, an auction may end without meeting the sellers' reserve price. Bidders have no way of knowing whether their bids were in the range of the set price. Reserve auctions have lower rates of completed sales than other auctions, Pursglove said.
"We received a lot of criticism from bidders saying that the reserve auction is a detriment to their bidding," he said.
But because these auctions are popular with sellers, who want to make as much as possible on sales, eBay tried to strike a balance, Pursglove said. The requirement that the minimum bid be at least 25 percent of the reserve price gives bidders an idea of what the reserve price is, he said. And the $1 fee helps pay eBay's administrative costs.
"We think this is a step in the right direction toward leveling the playing field," Pursglove said.
Still, many sellers doubted the company's motives. "It's a crock," said Neil Wegner, who has been buying and selling items on eBay for about two years. "It's nothing but an extra way to generate revenue," he said.