eBay Moves To Ban Links to Other Sites

In a bid to cut down on the number of non-eBay sales made by buyers and sellers who find each other on its site, eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) said it will enforce a company policy banning links that lead its auction users to other Web sites.

“eBay has inconsistently enforced this policy over the past few years,” eBay told users. “This inconsistency has lead to confusion among our users.”

In announcement to its users posted Friday, eBay said that while the policy banning links from the “View Item” section of the auctions pages has been in place for some time, enforcement is now necessary.

Beginning May 31st, eBay will ban the links from pages within the auction section. Sellers may continue to use the “About Me” page to provide links to their own homepages or storefronts.

Confusion Cited

eBay said some users have bought items at auctionvia Web sites that were reached through links from eBay, only to find out later that they were not covered by eBayinsurance policies. Those buyers also lost the ability to provide feedback on eBay about the seller.

“By working together, eBay and our sellers have created a robust marketplace,” the company’s message said. “Sellers that attempt to divert buyers off eBay potentially decrease the value of the marketplace to the entire community. We believe that by clarifying and enforcing this policy we will strengthen the marketplace for everyone.”

Sellers Miffed

News of the change brought quick complaints from some sellers, who blame eBay with employing a double standard since links to eBay’s Half.com have become prevalent throughout the auctions pages.

“Why is ebay so anti-seller all of a sudden? It is sellers who have made eBay what it was,” said one posting on the Auction Watch message board.

“I think part of the problem is, eBay does not employ sellers or collectibles experts on their staff, so they do not TRULY understand the buying/selling experience,” wrote another angry seller. “All they see is the short-term picture, i.e., someone clicks on a Web site link, that user is being diverted from eBay.”

Policing the Policies

eBay first moved to cut down on offline sales among its community members early this year, announcing in late January that it would curb e-mail contact between buyers and sellers not engaged in negotiations over an eBay sale.

But analysts say that with no competitor offering a user base anywhere near aslarge as eBay’s, even angry users must play by eBay’s rules in order to reach customers.

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