eBay battles consumer rights magazine

Computing Which?  has attacked the auctioneer for allowing criminals to profit from 'everyday eBayers'

eBay has hit back at claims from consumer magazine Computing Which? that suggest the company should do more to protect its users from fraudsters.

The magazine has said eBay shows too little interest in identifying fraudsters among its user-base and supported that claim with figures from the Metropolitan Police.

Jessica Ross, editor of Computing Which? said eBay has created "plenty of opportunity for criminals to cash in" and "earn huge amounts defrauding everyday eBayers".

Computing Which? claimed that about 130 crimes are reported in London each month where the report cites eBay.

However, eBay has hit back saying the statistics quoted from the Met are "misleading".

The company claims the vast majority of those cases take place off eBay, with customers being encouraged 'offline' to conduct private sales with individuals intent on defrauding them.

A statement issued by eBay said: "We have been led to believe that, in most of the cases, the users were contacted via email – rather than on the eBay site. Payments were made using money transfer services such as Western Union, which are banned on eBay because they are not traceable.

"eBay works extensively with law enforcement across the UK and internationally, employing a dedicated team of experts who liaise proactively with the police."

eBay claims to have trained more than 1,000 UK police officers during 2005 in order to better equip them in the war against fraud.

The magazine also called on eBay to ensure its online safety centre is more clearly labelled and more easily accessible via the site in order to ensure customers get the information and support they need to trade securely. Currently finding that resource is "like looking for a needle in a haystack", according to Computing Which?.

It added that the popular auction site must do more to warn users about the risk of fraud.

In response, eBay has issued these recommendations for customers:

  • Never take the sale off eBay.
  • Never use money transfer services, such as Western Union as there is no comeback if the goods turn out to be faulty or if they do not arrive.
  • Never give out your eBay password, or respond to emails asking you to verify your account details.
  • Never trade if in any doubt.
  • Always read listings carefully, to make certain you know what you are bidding for.
  • Ask questions. Contact sellers with as many questions as you like regarding the quality of the item.
  • Study the feedback of the person you are trading with and find out how other traders have found them.
  • Use secure payment systems such as PayPal or, for expensive purchases, use an escrow service. eBay's recommended list of escrow companies is available here.

The claims are the latest in a string of accusations faced by the auction giant about its service. Earlier this year eBay faced criticism for being slow to shut down sales of counterfeit software and for not acting proactively on closing such sales.