Understanding eBay’s Feedback Extortion Policy

The purpose of eBay’s Feedback system is to share buying and selling experience with other members to give others an idea of what to expect when dealing with a buyer/seller. Each member’s Feedback score is displayed next to their user ID and is a buyer’s first point of reference to a seller’s Feedback reputation. For this reason it is important for sellers to maintain a good score. Unfortunately, rogue buyers know this and try to use seller’s fear of negative Feedback to their advantage. Enter eBay’s Feedback extortion policy.

Buyer and seller responsibilities

The word ‘extortion’ basically means blackmail, and many eBay sellers may experience it without even realising it is happening. eBay’s Feedback extortion policy forbids buyers from demanding additional goods, services or refunds over and above what was agreed in the original transaction with the threat of negative Feedback if the seller does not comply.

On the other side of the policy, sellers are also not allowed to require buyers to leave positive Feedback or revise existing Feedback in exchange for shipping items, completing refund requests or providing monetary compensation. Sellers are however allowed to ask the buyer to leave positive Feedback at the end of a successful transaction.

Examples of eBay extortion

The following are three examples of Feedback extortion cases adapted from the eBay community forum archives.

  • I sold a necklace that the buyer admitted they did not like when it arrived. In the original listing I included lots of photos as well as accurate measurements and an extensive description. The buyer is saying that is it not what he expected and wants a refund. I accept refunds but the buyer says that “if you want good feedback from me, you have to refund me my money first.” Asking for a refund before shipping the item back to a seller and threatening negative Feedback is not allowed.
  • The buyer requested a refund but does not want to send back the item she purchased from me as she wants to keep it. I have eBay messages from her that say I have to forget about my item and issue her a partial refund otherwise she will give me negative feedback. Here, the buyer is threatening the seller’s feedback rating in order to get a partial refund.
  • I sold a women’s blouse in an auction listing. The item was in the blouse category and the description, title, item specifics and measures all clearly referred to the blouse.  I put the blouse on a mannequin also wearing a skirt. In the photos, a couple of inches of the skirt is visible. I noted in the  item’s description that the skirt was not included. The buyer is saying they will leave me negative feedback if I do not send them the skirt for free. In this situation, the buyer is asking the seller to send an extra item that wasn’t part of the original listing.

In all three of the above scenarios, the buyers are threatening to leave negative Feedback if the seller does not do something that was not agreed in the original listing. By doing so, they are breaching eBay’s Feedback extortion policy as stated above. eBay has the deciding and final word on whether a buyer is disobeying policy when a seller reports a buyer or asks for Feedback to be removed.

What to do if a buyer violates the Feedback extortion policy

First, report the buyer to eBay for making unreasonable demands with the threat of negative Feedback. Sellers can do this through the Resolution Center. Be sure to keep all relevant blackmail messages in My eBay’s Messages Inbox as evidence of the buyer’s threatening language. eBay may request to see these messages.

If the buyer leaves negative Feedback and eBay agrees that they were violating the extortion policy, they will remove the rating from the seller’s score.
To prevent future problems with specific buyers, sellers are able to block selected buyers bidding or purchasing from future auctions and listings through My eBay’s seller preferences section. In addition to a specific blocked user list, sellers can also block buyers who do not meet certain requirements to bid e.g. Feedback score over a certain amount, no previous eBay policy violations.