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eBay tightens rules for sellers

If they accept PayPal payments, they must also accept credit cards--which involves fees. Shill bidding rules modified as well.

eBay has tightened rules governing credit card acceptance and clarified its prohibition of a type of fraud known as shill bidding.

eBay said Monday that sellers could no longer accept PayPal payments from buyers without accepting credit card transactions, thereby avoiding PayPal fees. eBay acquired PayPal in 2002.

Sellers' practice of restricting PayPal payment methods "was creating a bad buyer experience," said PayPal spokeswoman Amanda Pires. "It would be like walking into the grocery store and filling up your cart, getting to the check stand with your credit card and being told sorry, even after you saw the credit card logo outside the store."

Under PayPal rules, sellers can accept payment through bank transfers or PayPal balances for free. But sellers in the United States who accept credit card payments are charged between 1.9 percent and 2.9 percent of the value of the transaction, based on volume.

Pires sought to quell concerns that eBay was tightening the restrictions merely to boost PayPal's fee collections.

"We got a lot of community feedback, which is why we're changing this," Pires said. "And it was a very small percentage of sellers who were doing this."

Previously, only sellers who displayed the PayPal logo were disallowed from restricting credit card payment. Now all sellers who accept PayPal must accept credit cards.

eBay also spelled out to sellers what it said had been a gray area in its policy forbidding shill bidding, or bidding intended to artificially inflate the price of an auction.

Under the clarified policy, a seller's family members, roommates and employees are forbidden from bidding on the seller's items.

"Because a seller's family members, roommates and employees have a level of access to information about the seller's items which is not available to the general community, they are not permitted to bid on items offered by the seller--even if their sole intent is to purchase the item," reads the clarification. "Family members, roommates and employees may purchase items from a seller without violating this policy simply by using fixed price purchase options that do not involve bidding. These fixed price purchase options include Buy It Now or purchasing from the seller's eBay Stores."

The rules clarifications came the same day eBay announced it was canceling its Anything Points incentive program.

Company spokesman Hani Durzy denied any connection between the trio of changes.

"There isn't any specific tie-in," Durzy said. "Everything we do is done with the community in mind, taking into account what we've heard from them and what we've seen on the site in an effort to make eBay a better, safer, more advantageous place for buyers and selling."