FEEDBACK, DSR, SELLER PERFORMANCE, BUYER PROTECTION AN EVALUATION
Over the last few years eBay has implemented a number of new policies, some successful and some not so. Amongst the most contentious of these policies is changes to feedback, the introduction of DSR and seller performance.
Under eBay's revised feedback policy sellers can no longer leave negative or neutral feedbacks for buyers, they can't even leave a positive feedback with any comments that might be considered as negative. According to Bill Cobb, president of eBay North America this was brought in because '"Today, the biggest issue with the (feedback) system is that buyers are more afraid than ever to leave honest, accurate feedback because of the threat of retaliation. In fact, when buyers have a bad experience on eBay, the final straw for many of them is getting a negative feedback, especially of a retaliatory nature."
Whilst it is correct that nobody likes to receive negative feedback, particularly when they have done nothing wrong it is the impact of such feedback that bears the biggest consequence. For a buyer a feedback rating of 100% or 1% is inconsequential as it does not effect their ability to bid or make purchases, which is their primary activity. However it does have a direct impact on a sellers ability to sell. If there are identical products at the same price the determining factor for buyers will often be feedback rating.
This would suggest that feedback is more important to sellers than to buyers.
As buyer I have always left appropriate feedback whether it be positive, neutral or negative. However as a seller on many occasions I have declined leaving negative feedbacks for buyers for fear of reprisal. This would suggest that the party that is unable to leave honest feedback are not buyers but in fact sellers. So, if it is sellers that require greater protection in relation to feedback then why has eBay brought out a policy to strengthen the powers of buyers? This would lead most to conclude that the new feedback policy has nothing to do with having a fair and transparent feedback mechanism but is the latest in a long line of policies brought out to pander to the demands of buyers.
DETAILED SELLER RATINGS
Buyers use detailed seller ratings (DSRs) to rate sellers in specific areas of a transaction. These include:
The seller's average rating for each area is shown on their Feedback Profile.
The ratings are then used to determine 'good sellers' from 'bad sellers'.
The main problem with DSR is that they are not disclosed on a transaction by transaction basis so it is very difficult to determine whether the DSR left are fair or for sellers to be able to contest them. Buyers are able to leave positive ratings with low DSR and even positive comments that conflict with low DSR.
This already undermines the transparency of the feedback forum.
I asked eBay customer services why disclosure of DSR were not made and the response was
"I’m afraid this is confidential. This is to prevent retaliation from some sellers"
The rationale put forward by eBay that DSRs need to be hidden for fear of 'retaliation' is nonsense as sellers have no means of retaliation. Therefore there is no valid reason why eBay cannot disclose the feedback rating, the feedback comment and the DSR.
The second issue then becomes how do buyers assess each criteria.
Here some examples of items 'not as described'
Description: Please be aware that this is a R1 NTSC encoded DVD so you will require a DVD player capable of playing R1 Discs
Complaint: The item is not as described because it won't play on my R2 DVD player.
Description: Included is the phone and battery only.
Complaint: The phone did not come with a charger.
Description: Digital Camera in good working order
Complaint: Item is not as described as I don't know how to use it.
Description: Please be aware the DVD comes in a blank case
Complaint: The item was supplied in a blank case.
Description: Women's trousers size 14 (Label states 14)
Complaint: Trousers were described as size 14 but they must be smaller than 14, because I am a 14 and they are tight.
Ultimately it is the buyer that makes the decision as to whether an item is as described or not. Unfortunately in some instances as above even when the item is as described buyers will not accept responsibility - it is far easier to blame the seller.
Definitely a filler DSR. Impossible to prove or monitor. Another example of an assessment based on spurious information.
This is by far the most misunderstood DSR. Dispatch time relates to the amount of time it takes for the seller to dispatch the goods, not the amount of time that it takes for the goods to be delivered. Many buyers leave feedback comments like 'superfast delivery' or 'arrived very quickly'. This has no bearing on this particular DSR.
The problem with this DSR is that in some cases it is impossible to know when the item was dispatched therefore it is impossible to assess whether the item was dispatched quickly or not. So on what basis are buyers making their assessment? - probably delivery time rather than dispatch time, and if that is the case then this DSR serves no purpose what so ever.
Postage and Packing Costs
Postage and packing charges are clearly displayed on all domestic listings - therefore it is not clear why this is used as a rating. By bidding on the item you are agreeing to pay the P&P displayed on the listing. Why would anyone bid on an item and then complain about the P&P afterwards.
The seller performance criteria requires sellers to maintain a DSR rating above 1% for Item as described and 2% for all the other criteria. Failure to do so may result in limitations on the account. As can be seen from the above examples the DSR mechanism is unreliable, unfair and can easily be manipulated. To apply restrictions on seller accounts based on usually a handful of unverified unreliable feedback has a negative impact on the eBay community and illustrate the low regard with which eBay holds sellers.
Sellers have a maximum 3 or 1% of opened buyer protection cases which if exceeded restrictions can be applied on accounts.
eBay Buyer Protection cases: incentive for early resolution
From 31 August 2011, if a buyer opens an eBay Buyer Protection case without first contacting you via My eBay messages and you resolve it to the buyer’s satisfaction, within 3 working days, the case may be excluded from your seller performance evaluation.
Before a buyer can initiate a buyer protection complaint buyers are required first to contact the seller to resolve the issues. The above would indicate that this is not happening and that there are no safeguards in place to ensure that buyers follow the correct procedure.
Buyers and sellers should always work together to resolve issues. Therefore it would be better to have a controlled environment whereby disputes can be resolved without it counting against the seller. This would be within the dispute resolution console and would work as follows.
If a buyer raises a dispute whereby the item is not received or received but not as described then the buyer can refer the matter to the current dispute console. The seller will then be given the option of
1. Providing a full refund
If a full refund is given then the claim does not count against the seller.
2. Providing a refund upon the return of the item.
The buyer then has 7 days to return the item. Once the item as been returned the seller has 3 days to process a full refund. if a full refund is given then claim is closed and does not count against the seller.
3. Dispute Escalation
If the seller disagrees with the claim then the claim can be escalated to eBay dispute resolution service. Only claims that have been escalated and found in favour of the buyer should count against the seller as only after the claim has been assessed can a determination of liability be established.
What the above achieves is the setting up of a formal process which can be monitored and formalised to replace the unreliable and often unfair mechanism that is currently in place.
You will be hard pressed to find anyone who believes tat the recent eBay policy changes present a level playing field. eBay often rather than using the term buyers and sellers uses the term trading partners and a partnership is usually of equals. There is no doubt that the above policies further erode the position of sellers and further empower the position of buyers to one of complete dominance. It is important that eBay remembers that the eBay community is made up of both buyers and sellers and the same way that there are some bad sellers that there are some bad buyers too. Whilst eBay may evolve and grow as a business the core principles on which it was built should not be forgotten
Sellers can no longer leave negative feedback
DSR are hidden because they are 'confidential'
Seller accounts can be suspended based on hidden information contained within DSR
Consider the above in context
''Now, we have an open forum. Use it. Make your complaints in the open. Better yet, give your praise in the open''
Pierre Omidyar, Founder's Letter