The company announced Monday that sellers can opt out of Checkout, which automatically prompted buyers to provide sellers with their shipping and billing information. Some sellers criticized the suddenly mandatory feature as being redundant, confusing and leading to more work for them.
"We understand that Checkout and the upcoming changes to the Checkout process occur during an important time of year for our sellers and will make the changes as rapidly as we can with the least amount of disruption," eBay said in a note to sellers on its announcement board. "We apologize to those members of our selling community who may have been inconvenienced and will continue to do all we can to provide a better process for eBay sellers and buyers."
San Jose, Calif.-based eBay decided to drop the requirement that all auctions include Checkout after talking with users and conducting several surveys about the new feature, eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove said. Although buyers seemed to like the new service, many sellers objected to it, he said.
"It became clear that users, particularly on the seller side, wanted some changes," he said. "It's clear that sellers would like a program where they could continue their existing process for checkout."
Launched last month, Checkout allows sellers to provide information to buyers about the cost for shipping a particular item or taxes on the item. After an auction closes, the feature prompts buyers for their payment information and shipping address.
But many sellers have already set up their own systems for communicating with buyers after an auction ends. Auction service companies such as Andale and AuctionWorks already provide many of the same services that are incorporated into Checkout. And many sellers have standard e-mail messages they send to customers prompting them for information and telling them about their auction terms.
For these sellers, Checkout often meant a flurry of extra e-mail and buyers who didn't know whether to use eBay's Checkout system. Many sellers were concerned that eBay was trying to take control of their auctions and their customers.
"I feel like we just won a battle," said Rosalinda Baldwin, editor of The Auction Guild, an e-mail newsletter targeted at online auction users. "This is a major setback for them."
The change to Checkout will mean that for sellers who have opted out of the service, eBay will no longer include a Checkout button on closed auction listings or in the end-of-auction e-mail that is sent to buyers. The company will continue to include an area on the listing where sellers can specify shipping costs and applicable taxes.
As part of the change, which eBay expects to be in place in two to three weeks, sellers will be able to specify in their eBay preferences whether they want to use Checkout on their auctions. If sellers do not change their preferences, eBay will assume they want to use Checkout, Pursglove said.
eBay will still require Checkout on fixed-price listings in eBay Stores, Pursglove said.
Earlier this month, eBay fixed several technical bugs with the Checkout feature, including a glitch that gave out sellers' private payment addresses.