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eBay adds VoIP facility

'Skype Me' button for voice Q&A

eBay will begin its integration of Skype's VoIP service with its US auction site next week, giving sellers the option to add a 'Skype Me' button alongside their product listings, eBay announced today.

The pilot program will be offered in 14 categories of products, including real estate, cars and trucks, and cameras and camera equipment, the company said.

eBay chose categories where it thinks a quick conversation will help sellers to close deals more quickly. They include higher-priced or complex goods, or products involving new technologies that might need explaining.

The pilot program will allow eBay to evaluate how the VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephony service is used before it rolls it out across other product categories. The company has said it will offer the Skype feature in other countries too.

eBay acquired Skype late last year for about $2.6bn.

Sellers will be able to add the Skype Me button to their listings starting on Monday. It will appear in a new "Ask a seller a question" section. Buyers will be able to click on the button to talk with sellers via Skype's voice and chat services.

The Skype feature will be offered for free, eBay said. It will appear in the following categories: automotive GPS (global positioning system) devices, wired routers, Skype devices, VoIP and internet telephony devices, diamond solitaire rings, manufacturing and metalworking, beds, basketball cards, silver coins, Lost in Space collectibles, and radio-controlled toys.

Meg Whitman, eBay's president and chief executive officer, announced the Skype plans last night at the start of the company's eBay Live user convention in Las Vegas, a company spokesman said.

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