Many people do not realise that although the Police aren't able to always get involved in ebay disputes there are still other options.
False feedback is a common problem, especially now buyers aren't scared of receiving retaliation feedback, as sellers can no longer leave negative feedback.
Whether a transaction goes well or not, there's still the danger the buyer may be childish and leave silly remarks.
The first thing to do is ask them directly to remove or alter it, it may be that when they wrote it they were in a bad mood- through no fault of your own, sometimes- if you feel it really is unfair- they will see your point of view.
Secondly use the ebay community section to send an official 'Revise Your Feedback' form. This is a little more official and tells the ebayer that you are really not happy with what they have said.
Thirdly ebay will NOT get involved unless the feedback is Defamation. By law this means that the statement will have a detrimental affect on the publics perception of your charachter or business. If it is then you can download a 'Notice of Defamtion' off the ebay site. You simply sign it, include a cover letter and any evidence supporting that the feedback is untre and send it to the address on the form.
I do not reccomend making your feedback private, first and foremost you will no longer be able to sell but secondly if everybody did it ebay would be awful. Stay open, stay fair and people will trust you.
"the publication of a statement which tends to lower a person in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally. The statement can be words, visual images or some other method of signifying meaning. Defamation takes two forms, libel and slander. Libel involves (amongst other things) writing or printing a defamatory statement. Slander is speech or gestures of a defamatory nature" (Weblaw.com)
There are a few things to remember about 'Defamation':
Firstly it cannot be used in relation to comment made to you either in person, private or by email. In order for it to be defamatory the statement has to have an audience of which can be manipulated. So feedback is a public forum, therfore comments made are public and actionable.
Secondly, Defamation is also actional against the company who print the allegation/statement. For example, If a newspaper prints something false and derogatory about an MP, not only is the reporter liable, so is the editor and technically the printer, the newagent who sells the paper and the paperboy who delivers it. Hence why ebay must take action to remove defamatory remarks,- they are also liable for prosecution.
Thirdly, unlike most justice systems whereby the complainant has to be proven guilty, in Defamation it's the other way around. It is the complainants requirement to prove they are innocent. So if somebody for example has stated that the caravan you are selling is rotten, it is up to you to prove that it isn't, not them to prove that it is. You may think this unfair but it's pivital to free speech.
Fourthly, it is very easy to prosecute for defamation. It must be clear though that the statement has had a measurable effect on your business or reputation though. If you lose sales through it that is an effect, if you feel hurt by it- it is not. If somebody calls you 'gay' it is not necessarily defamation- unless for example it is pivotal to your character that you are not gay, i.e if you are the pope. Just because you perceive being 'gay' to be derogatory, by law it isnt.
Okay so the feedback is defamatory...
Once you print and sign the ebay declaration and post off your evidence you may wish to consider legal action. You can use the small claims court, or go through a solicitor.
If the effect of the comment is easily measurable, for example you have tried to relist the item and it has failed to sell several times as a result of the feedback, then small claims is ideal. You will need to know how much you are sueing for. Small claims is easy, apply for a pack from
Fees vary but are very cheap, plus you can add it to the amount being sued for. You fill in the forms to apply and have a chance to send supporting paperwork. You will need to supply a name and address for the other person so they receive a copy to.
They get called to a hearing. If they fail to show a ruling will be made in their absence. If they fail to pay a debt collector will be drafted in, first letters, then door dtep collection. Either way you will lamost certianly get your money.
The other option is a solicitor, if it's complicated and you think settling out of court is an option then see your solicitor, you can always consider 'no win no fee' if you feel your case is strong enough. Remember they wont take it on unless they think you will win, so if they turn you away you may need to re-assess.
Remember that any emails that to and fro between you and the other member are evidence. You must conduct yourself in an ordelrly manner, these emails may well be read out in court, you don't want to have read 'yeah but no but, u r a complete loser'!
Defamation may manifest itself in other ways, the ebayer may contact bidders on your item to put them off it, or ebayers may contact them to find out why the sale didn't go through, either way what they say may have a huge effect on your sale.
Within Defamation there is a law called 'Maliscious Falsehood', this basically refers to something sombody says in public or to a third party is a: false and b: has maliscious intent.
If somebody is telling ebayers that you caravan is rotten, and they have insufficient proof to say it really is, this is maliscious falsehood, it's a statement that is designed to ruin your auction or listing and put people off buying- even if they think the statement is true. This is only acitonable if you can prove it isn't rotten by the way, you will need to get the caravan inspected by at least 2 people in order to submit it as evidence. The interesting part of this is that the falsehood doent necessarily have to be a lie. If for example the ebayer genuinly believes the caravan to be rotten they have to know for sure that it is, they can't take somebody elses word for it (i.e they take the photo of the caravan to a bodyshop who look at it and jump to the conclusion its worthless). It is the responsibilty of the publisher to have all the facts before passing comment.
Here's the exapample to make it easy to understand (hopefully):
Joe Bloggs lists a caravan, it sells for £5000. He finds some minor damage to the body and photographs it to send to the buyer so they can see it and renegotiate or get it repaired for them.
The buyer takes that photo to a bodyshop and they say the caravan is rotten, not worth anywhere near £5000, that it would need a whole new roof and full respray to make right and then the buyer says they dont want to buy it, thats fine, they have received an opinion and acted on it. Chances are, they have been given a worst case scenario and they genuinely believe what they have been told- you in the meantime have been quoted £50 to repair it.
If they then go on to say in feedback, 'damage found- sale didnt go ahead' this is also fine, as you have clearly defined this as damage.
If however they say 'caravan is rotten and damp' this is defamation. You have established it has damage but no that it is rot, or indeed damp- as this is just an assumption. An assumption that will go on to effect to re-sale of the item.
If the buyer goes on to show anybody else that photograph it is a breach of copyright. You, as the taker of the photograph sent it to the reciprient for their sole use, you may not have stated that in the emial but its an 'acceptable assumption'.
If the buyer emails that photgraph to other ebay members this is a breach of copyright law- which is actually taken very seriously in UK courts. If the ebay member goes on to mail other members and REPEATS what they have been told by their bodyshop, as long as the information is wrong- this is defamatory and 'Maliscious Falsehood'. Rememeber what I said about the editor being responsible for the reporters wrong-doing? Same here, if the bodyshop jump to conclusions and get it wrong that's fine unless it is put in the public domain- here the ebay member is spreading false information.
It is the responibility of the ebayer to make sure that what they repeat or tell people has been fully varyfied.
If Joe Bloggs gets the damage repaired and tells the beya member but the ebay member is still telling people it is damaged and even worse that it requires a new roof and respray when actually you got it fixed for £50 this is once again 'Maliscous Falsehood', this is much more serious.
If you find your re-listing doesn't fetch anywhere near £5000 and it sits on your drive for months as a result you have very sound grounds to sue.
I hope this is of some help, most of the time things work out well for people in disputes but there are difficult members out there and we need to know how to deal with them.
Please be sure to do your own research, I am not a qualified lawyer, I am a Journalist and read a lot about law. You must check and double check eveything before considering legal action. Laws often change and I cannot be held responsible for any wrong information in the above review.
Problems with ebay members? False feedback> read this
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21 June 2009
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