How to Manage Abuse and Harassment on eBay

Dealing with difficult customers is a part of running any retail business. When using an online marketplace like eBay, however, the communication between seller and buyer can often be more forthright than what is considered normal in a traditional retail environment. Sometimes, this behavior crosses the line and becomes abusive.

This article will first delve into how abusive behavior can manifest on eBay before discussing how buyers and seller can manage and move on from abuse.

Abuse and harassment on eBay

Abuse is defined as an act that purposefully hurts another person. Harassment refers to persistent threatening or upsetting behavior. Abuse and harassment can come in many forms on eBay and be directed towards buyers as well as sellers. Some real life examples on eBay would be:

  • Using hateful or offensive language
  • Insulting another user
  • Threatening bad Feedback, legal action or even bodily harm
  • Sending persistent unsolicited messages

There are many reasons why an eBay user would resort to abusive behavior. Common causes include anger, frustration and miscommunication. Alternatively, the user could be purposely trying to provoke conflict. But no matter the origin or form, abuse and harassment is never acceptable.

Dealing with abuse and harassment

There is no miracle cure for dealing with abuse and harassment on eBay. There is also no foolproof way to avoid it either. With this in mind, here are four techniques to use when dealing with abuse and harassment on eBay. Many eBay users will choose to employ a combination of these.


Although it can be difficult and sometimes frustrating at times, ignoring an abusive eBay user can be the most constructive response.

Insults, offensive language and threatening behavior are often used as a way to provoke conflict. By ignoring these triggers, the user does not receive the attention they are anticipating.

Most hostile users purposely looking for a dispute will soon get bored when they realize their desired reaction is not going to materialize.

Block the user

eBay sellers are able to block abusive buyers from bidding or buying items. It is very easy to do, with the process taking less than a minute. It is straightforward to reverse the procedure and unblock users at a future date. Sellers can add up to 5,000 usernames to their blocked buyers list.

Note that these blocked users can still send messages to the seller unless the default setting is changed (via My eBay > Account > Site Preferences > Buyer Requirements or Seller Hub > Overview > Shortcuts > Site Preferences).

It is also possible for sellers to block potential buyers based on specific criteria. This includes users who have a negative Feedback rating or a history of unpaid items. In addition, sellers can exclude specific shipping locations from their listings.

Report to eBay

eBay has a number of policies that relate to harassment, abuse, offensive language and acceptable communication between members.

eBay users are not allowed to:

Examples of the latter include:

  • Sending intimidating messages to force the seller into something outside the terms of the original sale
  • Harassing a seller about an item not received before the latest estimated delivery date has passed
  • Falsely claiming an item was not as described
  • Returning an item other than the original item received
  • Threatening to manipulate Feedback or detailed seller ratings to force seller to provide a return, refund or additional items (Feedback extortion)

Sellers can report buyers who violate any of these policies via Seller Hub. Unfortunately, there is no available method online to report an abusive user who is not technically a ‘buyer’ yet.

Conversely, buyers are also able to report sellers who they do not believe are following eBay policy.

Reporting an abusive eBay user is satisfying, but keep your expectations low.

Full investigation is rare for all but the worst and most persistent offenders. Making a report could, however, help push eBay into action at a later date. Alternatively, calling eBay to report a user directly can have more concrete results.

Let it go

No-one deserves abuse or harassment. At a certain point, however, the best plan of action is to simply let it go and move on. It is simply not worth the time and effort spent thinking and worrying about the situation, especially as there is no way to ‘win.’ Here are some tips:

  • Stop reading messages from the abusive user and definitely do not reply. Deleting messages is also an option but less helpful if proof is required at a later date
  • Remember that most eBay users are just regular people who want to purchase or sell an item online and move on
  • Try to learn from the experience. If you recognize similar behavior and red flags from another user, consider disengaging with them earlier to minimize conflict

Experienced sellers, how do you deal with buyers demonstrating abusive or threatening behavior?

Gemma is our all things eBay expert. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Canada and travels extensively. You can read about her travels at her blog Off Track Travel.

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