Being a fickle follower of fashion, online auction site eBay has been a god-send for me. As soon as I'm finished with that so-last-season skirt or I finally give-up on the dress I've been swearing i'll slim down to fit into for the past four years, then i list them on the online auction site. Not only am I being good to the environment as throwing things away isn't exactly green, I'm also making space in my bulging wardrobe as well as depositing some much-needed cash back into my bank account ready for the next round of shopping.
I've been a regular user of the online auction site for around five years now, and like most eBayers, I set-up an account with online payment service PayPal and linked it to my eBay account, ensuring buyers could pay for the goods they purchased from me easily and quickly, as well as giving me the ability to fund my own purchases via a credit card and even trannsfer any profits made from my eBay sales straight into my bank account..
So imaging my surprise yesterday, when having posted just three items for sale, I was alerted to the fact my next listing couldn't be completed as I "needed to link my PayPal account to my eBay account". I was a bit surprised as listing items is something I've done hundreds of times before, but having moved house earlier this year I wondered if this may have caused a problem. I quickly went into my account settings, only to see that the two accounts were indeed linked. I signed out and signed back in again, wondering if a gremlin in the system was to blame but I was still unable to list my item. I tried for around 15 minutes and in frustration even resorted to unlinking and re-linking my eBay and PayPal accounts. However to nothing worked and I was unable to list the item.
I subsequently had to telephone both PayPal and eBay to get to the bottom of the issue. After around half an hour on the phone, I was finally given an explanation and it had less to do with unlinked accounts and more to do with the actual tem I was trying to sell.
The last item I had successfully listed before the warning appeared was a pair of DKNY jeans, one of two pairs I planned to sell. They are very much the genuine article, purchased on a holiday to the US several years ago (I still have the Bloomingdales receipt). They were listed as 'used' as they've been worn before were available for the bargain price of £4.99. However, I was told by the eBay member of staff that because the online auction site deems DKNY to be a "high-fashion" brand, it prevents users from selling more than one item from these brands unless their PayPal account is 'Verified'.
For those unfamiliar with eBay and PayPal, a 'verified' account requires the user to register their current account details with PayPal and submit a direct debit agreement. PayPal will then transfer two small amounts to this bank account. The user must keep an eye on their account and as soon as the transactions appear on their statement, they must return to PayPal and input the value of the transactions, which will 'verify' their account.
This means that not only can you transfer funds received by your PayPal account (for good sold) to your bank account, you can also send funds to your PayPal account from your current account. This is something that makes me nervous. At present I fund my PayPal account from a credit card, so should hackers get hold of my personal details and use my account to pay for items, I will not find myself without cash while I alert the card company to the fraudulent purchases and await the refund. However, if my bank account is linked to my PayPal account and they use that to fund purchases I could find myself overdrawn and without enough funds in my bank account to pay the mortgage and other bills. I've been the victim of debit card fraud before and it took nearly ten days for the bank in question to re-credit the money to my account. It's not a situation I want to be in again. However, I hear of far too many people who this has happened to, so for me verifying my PayPal account is not an option. However, as a result I am unable to list a genuine item, for sale.
eBay says this rule is implemented in a bid to protect users from counterfit goods that appear for sale on the site, and while I respect there is a need for online auction sites to police whether goods are genuine or not, it is making users put their bank account at risk for the ability to be able to sell some second hand clothes.
My biggest gripe however, it that is took nearly an hour of my time to discover this fact. In my opinion, eBay does not make it clear enough to users if you want to sell "high fashion" brands, you'll need a verified PayPal account. A lot of my time could have been saved had this been clearly displayed somewhere on the site – or if the warning I recieved had stated this, rather than indicating the biggest cause of the problem was that my PayPal and eBay accounts were not linked. eBay also doesn't specify what it considers a "high-fashion" brand. In fact, I had no problems listing several (once again worn) Nike sports tops, despite not having verified my account. Perhaps eBay believes that web users don't offer counterfit Nike goods on the site.
Most security-savvy web users live by the rule that "if it seems to good to be true, then it usually is" where the web is concerned, and I suspect they apply that rule to goods for sale on eBay. Perhaps those web users that are less clued-up would benefit from some education on counterfit goods, and information that displayed clearly and easily on the site regarding the risk for both buyers and sellers would be a step in the right direction. For now however, web users looking to sell "high-fashion" brands on eBay will need to verify their PayPal accounts and as a result keep a very close eye on their bank accounts.
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