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Fee fumble frustrates eBay users

The online auction site is working to fix one problem that prevents sellers from receiving re-listing credits and another that charges them a phantom re-listing fee.

eBay was working Friday to fix two problems that affect the fees sellers pay to re-list items.

One problem, which started about two weeks ago, prevented some sellers from automatically receiving credits that eBay pays to members who have to list an item twice before it sells. The second glitch, which surfaced Friday, appeared to charge sellers a new 5 cent fee for each item they re-listed--even though their accounts weren't actually being charged.

eBay is aware of both problems and is working to fix them, company spokesman Kevin Pursglove said. The company expects to fix the credit problem by Friday night, he said.

Pursglove said he could not comment on the cause of the credit glitch and did not know specifically how many sellers or listings were affected by the problem, saying it affected "a small number" of sellers. eBay says it has some 50 million registered users worldwide.

"This has been major pain for me," said Ed O'Brien, who sells "Star Trek" and Disney items, as well as collectible trading cars on eBay. "eBay's taken such a nice, friendly, easy-to-use site and turned it into a nightmare."

Somewhere between 40 to 60 percent of items listed on eBay sell the first time they are listed, analysts estimate. Sellers whose items do not sell the first time around can re-list them, and eBay will refund the second listing fee if the item finally sells. The company charges between 30 cents and $3.30 for each item a seller lists.

The credit problem comes after eBay introduced a new listing form in late June. eBay has allowed sellers to continue using the old form and many have preferred to do so. The new form is five pages long, while the original form is just one page. The company plans to eventually phase out the original form, Pursglove said.

The problem appears to affect sellers who re-list their items using the company's old listing form.

The other re-listing glitch involves a notice sent to sellers that says they are being billed 5 cents for each item they re-list. The notice surprised some sellers, as eBay hasn't previously levied a surcharge for re-listing.

On one of its announcement boards, eBay said this second glitch, like the first, is only affecting sellers using the original listing form.

eBay said this second glitch began Friday morning and is still being worked on. Although sellers are receiving the notice, they aren't actually being billed and won't see it on their accounts, Pursglove said. He said there are no plans to institute such a fee.

eBay did not inform users on its announcement board about the re-listing credit because of the small number of people affected, Pursglove said. People affected will have to fill out a form on eBay's listing page to receive their credit.

O'Brien criticized that approach, saying it was burdensome for sellers--some of whom might be re-listing hundreds of items in a two-week period--to have to go through their auctions to determine which ones didn't get a proper credit.

"Most people don't check to see if they've ever gotten their re-listing fees back," said the St. Petersburg, Fla., resident. "eBay doesn't understand that not everybody sits in front of their computer 24 hours a day."

eBay should notify the affected sellers and automatically credit them, said Rosalinda Baldwin, an eBay watchdog and editor at The Auction Guild.

"I don't know how they can get away with this," Baldwin said.

eBay has had a series of technical problems this year. Last month, a glitch caused eBay to double charge sellers' bank accounts for monthly fees. The company later reversed the erroneous charges, but not before some sellers reported bounced checks and other bank charges for insufficient funds in their bank accounts.

Earlier this year, the company was hit with a series of outages and site slowdowns, including a nine-hour downtime that prevented buyers and sellers from accessing items in the jewelry and clothing areas of the site.

The problems have come as eBay has made a number of technical upgrades to its site. The biggest project of these has been its "V3" initiative, which will include real-time updates for eBay's data warehouse and minute-by-minute updates for listings, currently updated once per hour.