After the changes .... CAN YOU NOW BUY SAFELY ON EBAY?

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Well, please allow me to dwell a moment upon the move by eBay to ensure that ALL bidders' names are not disclosed in auctions.

My opinion is that this opens the market wide for the shill-bid cheats and on the surface, seems to be yet another manifestation of "rip-off Britain", allowing higher prices to be achieved through the mechanism of lack of transparency in the bidding process and at the expense of you, the bidder.

eBay does NOT operate this policy in other countries; go to other eBay auction sites and see for yourself! The VERY MOST that they dare to do in other countries is state only the first and last letters of the bidders, using stars to disguise the rest of the name; they would NEVER dare to hide the names completely in countries where buyers are more vocal and have better consumer legal protection against such practices. Bidders in other countries thus remain anonymous, but buyers are always able to determine a pattern of buying in seller's auctions which MAY indicate shill-bidding to push the price up.

eBay has announced that the scheme of keeping all bids hidden is safe because they will monitor things constantly. That would be the same team that monitors the other areas that bring disrepute to eBay, such as fakes (widespread), inaccurate descriptions (widespread), shill-bidding (you think it doesn't exist?!), sellers not going ahead with sale because "the price is too low" (eBay says: tough - you do the deal, you have to buy but you don't have to sell), etc. Hmmmm.

Therefore, be aware that in eBay's UK auctions, you now run a disproportionately high risk of being taken for an expensive ride and the only beneficiaries are the seller and eBay, who pocket the fees. With the introduction of obligatory PayPal, they stand to gain even more at the buyers' expense.

I applaud some of the changes that eBay are making, but in most cases, these are NOT to protect buyers, rather they are there to facilitate increased revenue. I don't have a problem with that aim, but I do wish that they would be honest about it AND and offer REAL TRANSPARENCY to protect bidders.

Don't get taken for a ride on eBay. PROTECT YOURSELF! BUY SAFE! Not easy, as there is now lack of transparency on eBay, but consider these options:

(1) Don't bid early and risk your bid being pushed upwards; revert back to last-second bidding.

(2) Review sellers' completed auctions and look at the final price and the bid pattern. Treat as suspicious, sellers whose completed listings seem to have regularly sold at an unusually high price.

(3) If you see the value in doing so, make more use of Buy It Now, where the price on display is the price you'll pay. I urge honest sellers to consider listing as Buy It Now with offers, a truly transparent means of listing which cannot be manipulated by shill-bidders. You offer what you feel it's worth, it's the seller's option to decline or accept.

(4) Buy from eBay sites other than the UK one, where you'll be able to work out whether the person who is bidding against you has bid an awful lot of times with the same seller, but has never quite put in the winning bid. You'll still be covered by PayPal protection if you use PayPal to pay.

(5) If you are bid up by someone who subsequently withdraws their bid as an "error", then unless you seriously want the item, give consideration to withdrawing all your bids as well.

(6) If you cannot do this due to being too late in the auction, complain to eBay and seriously consider refusing to pay for the item.

(7) NEVER accept second chance offers. They are another eBay gift to shill-bidders, often sent as the result of a shill-bid gone wrong and the shiller has beaten your maximum price at the last moment. The seller's remaining option is then to try and get you to pay the maximum price that you entered during the auction by offering you a "second chance". LET THE SELLER RELIST.

It's not all gloom; follow my ideas and give each buy a little sensible thought, and you may yet snatch a bargain and enjoy eBay.

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