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Coronavirus on eBay: are you selling your products at the right price?

eBay addresses the coronavirus challenges to keep sellers and buyers on the safe side. One such challenge relates to unscrupulous merchants who inflate prices in order to make money out of human desperation for certain products.

Of course not all sellers operate in such a crafty way and probably you’re not one of them. Still, it’s worth staying on top of eBay policies and coronavirus-related updates.

First, if you’re unaware of the policy changes, you can make costly mistakes, even if you, as a respectable seller, don’t have bad intentions. Second, the corona situation is dynamic and can affect your eBay store.

In this article you’ll learn about:

  • eBay’s efforts to stamp out coronavirus price gouging (overcharging buyers)
  • Why inflating prices may be detrimental to your eBay store and customer loyalty
  • Practical recommendations and useful links that will help you keep track of relevant eBay listing policies.

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eBay sellers inflate prices after the coronavirus outbreak

After the coronavirus outbreak, eBay had started seeing some sellers’ attempts at exploiting other users by listing in-demand products at inflated prices (e.g. masks, hand sanitizers): an activity known as “price gouging”.

What is price gouging?
Price gouging happens when sellers increase product prices in a way that is considered unreasonable or unfair, e.g. artificial price increases for basic necessities after natural disasters or during a global health crisis.

In simple terms, price gouging is charging customers too much money. With zero-tolerance for this type of practices, eBay has updated its policies and keeps removing listings that are priced unfairly.

Of course, the majority of eBay sellers don’t attempt to exploit buyers. For instance, according to some recent data, the vast majority of relevant masks sold on eBay were bought at reasonable prices.

However, this small number of sellers who try to profit from disasters have a negative impact on both buyers’ pockets and also on the overall marketplace environment, including other sellers who continue to trade in an ethical way.

As a result, eBay has been working hard at clamping down on people profiteering from the coronavirus pandemic.

According to an eBay spokesperson:

eBay does not tolerate sellers exploiting other users. For several weeks we have had filters in place designed to prevent the listing of items at unreasonably inflated prices and are constantly updating our measures to control listings as the situation evolves.

eBay adds: “We continue to work closely with authorities including Trading Standards, and our international security teams have been working around the clock to remove any unreasonably priced listings.”

To learn more about how your eBay store can cope with (potential) coronavirus-related adversities, check out this COVID-19 ecommerce checklist.

How is eBay dealing with coronavirus-related inflated prices?

Since the end of February, eBay has had block filter algorithms in place. Further, the platform’s global security team have been working hard to remove listings and prevent persistent unscrupulous sellers from trying to circumvent eBay filters.

Unscrupulous eBay sellers will find their listings blocked or removed and their account suspended.

To date, eBay has removed hundreds of thousands of items related to coronavirus and has suspended hundreds of seller accounts.

The platform wants to keep only legitimate sellers on site who offer fairly priced items. Thus, only closely vetted sellers will be allowed to continue trading affected items.

For more information about eBay’s support for sellers in the time of coronavirus, watch the video below.

Coronavirus & inflated prices on eBay: examples

As hoarding specific products surges, some sellers will do anything to profit from this situation. The tendency for panic buying in challenging times exacerbates the problem.

For example, in the UK 250ml of Carex hand lotion (normally priced at around GBP 1) was offered by some marketplace sellers for an average of GBP 10, some prices reaching over GBP 20!

Other affected products include masks, thermometers, baby formula, tampons and numerous hygiene products.

Much as eBay is trying to do their best to ban anyone exploiting other users, there are challenges on the way. As some sellers keep looking for ways to circumvent filters or policies, the battle against products on sale at “extortionate” prices is ongoing.

Overpricing eBay buyers is not worth it: here’s why

Short-term gain, long-term pain. Sure, some ecommerce sellers can exploit buyers and enjoy extra profits for a while. However, this situation won’t last forever. First, sellers whose accounts have been suspended by eBay can suffer much bigger profit losses in the long run.

Second, according to Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to existing customers (60-70%) is much higher compared to new ones (5-20%), so customer loyalty pays off. But it can be hard to turn ripped off people into loyal customers when things go back to normal.

Retaining customers costs less than acquiring new ones. Customer loyalty pays off, but sellers who exploit distressed buyers can probably forget about their loyalty when the panic is over.

Unscrupulous sellers are likely to learn their lesson sooner or later.

Luckily, the majority of eBay sellers don’t attempt to exploit buyers. However, it’s important that they don’t fall prey to the bad PR that their dishonest competitors contribute to.

The selfish behavior of some sellers “is having a wider impact across the retail landscape“, according to eBay. Highlighting “fair trade & fair pricing” at the time of crisis is an opportunity to improve the seller’s brand image.

“Coronavirus tip” for eBay sellers
Consider stressing that you’re not here to profit from the coronavirus epidemic. For example, saying to your customers: “We don’t want you out of pocket, we want you to stay healthy and well-stocked at fair prices”, can help you build meaningful connections with buyers.

eBay & coronavirus-related updates & links

Finally, some useful links and eBay updates regarding coronavirus. Emphasizing the dedication to delivering a safe and trusted marketplace, eBay has published a reminder of its Listing Policies:

  • Titles and item descriptions containing health claims and misusing terms such as “Coronavirus”, “Covid-19”, ‘Virus”, “epidemic” are prohibited.
  • Listings that attempt to profit from tragedies and disasters like the coronavirus outbreak are prohibited.
  • Sellers who have live listings that offer items such as face masks, hand sanitizer gel, etc., are requested to review their listings to ensure compliance with eBay listing policies.

Not following eBay listing policies could result in:

  • Ending/canceling your relevant listings
  • Hiding/demoting all listings from search results
  • Lowering your seller rating
  • Enforcing buying or selling restrictions
  • Suspending your account.

To make sure your listings are compliant, eBay recommends you read the three most relevant policies on this topic:

Stay updated & stay healthy!

If things get rough, don’t hesitate to contact our cross-border sales specialist to find out about sales opportunities in different markets. Some markets are less affected by coronavirus, which has helped many ecommerce sellers retain their overall sales capacity in difficult times.

Coronavirus in numbers (as of 15 May, 2020):

  • Coronavirus cases: 4,541,148
  • Deaths: 303,636
  • Recovered: 1,711,878
  • Currently infected patients: 2,525,634
  • Countries affected: 213 (mainly USA, Spain).
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