Auctionbytes reports on the changes in eBay's Trading Assistant Agreement...
eBay Changes Trading Assistant Program for Consignment-Sales
By Ina Steiner
January 17, 2008
eBay announced changes to its Trading Assistant program, including the news that it would change the designation "Trading Post" to "Registered eBay Drop Off Location" (REDOL). The changes come as eBay consignment sellers face pressures from government regulators and in the wake of claims from MercExchange that Trading Posts violate its patents.eBay launched the Trading Assistant (TA) program in 2002 and the Trading Post program in 2004. The programs provide marketing collateral, tools and education to assist businesses and individuals who sell on eBay for consignment customers. On Wednesday, eBay announced new requirements for Trading Assistants and REDOLs (drop-off stores). In addition, eBay said it improved the directory that helps people find Trading Assistants, including an opt-in lead management system to distribute leads and a new evaluation system to help showcase satisfied customers.eBay Trading Assistants and drop-off stores have come under pressure from various regulatory agencies in the U.S., with some requiring consignment sellers to get auctioneers' licenses, and other agencies requiring them to adhere to regulations covering pawnbrokers. (See list of regulations compiled by AuctionBytes last year http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/pages/state_regs.)
eBay's new TA Program prohibits Trading Assistants and REDOLs from using the term "auction" or "auctioneer" in their business names, signage and marketing materials, unless they are licensed auctioneers.
In the program FAQs, eBay explains that the new requirement is being made "to protect Trading Assistant and Drop Off businesses from burdensome regulations." But eBay may have another reason for wanting to disassociate drop-off stores from auctioneers: In MercExchange's injunction appeal in its patent case against eBay, it claims eBay Trading Posts violate its patent rights.
The new program Terms and Conditions state that eBay does not screen REDOLs and that it "has no control over the quality, safety, or legality of the items advertised, the truth or accuracy of the listings or the ability of sellers to sell items." However, it has put in stricter requirements, requiring REDOLs to have comprehensive public liability insurance, casualty insurance, bailee's insurance, a $25,000 bond to protect sellers' checks, business interruption insurance, and Internet insurance. It also requires them to adhere to very specific customer service practices, such as timelines for listing items, paying customers, and emailing customers notifications throughout the consignment sales process.
The REDOLs must also agree to participate in eBay "secret shopper" programs in which independent third parties will evaluate them. In addition, all Trading Assistants will need a minimum Feedback score of 100 with at least 98% positive, sales of at least 10 items in the last 3 months, and an account in good standing to qualify for the program. (See TA and REDOL Terms and Conditions for full details.)
Current Trading Assistants must register for the new program by February 11, 2008, at which time eBay will retire the current Trading Assistant directory. Only Trading Assistants who have registered for the new program will be found in the new directory. Note that regulators have used eBay's Trading Assistant directory to locate targets of their investigations.