Sellers on eBay can no longer leave negative feedback for buyers, so what are they doing when they're upset about a buyer's remarks? Filing lawsuits—at least in the case of Joel Jones. UK resident Jones has filed a lawsuit against Chris Read after Read, the winner of Jones' eBay auction, left negative feedback on the transaction. Jones claims that Read's feedback is hurting his business and insists on pushing his libel suit unless Read deletes his comments.
The story unfolds exactly as many of us jaded eBay users would expect. Read won an auction being held by Jones for a cell phone, but when he received the item, it wasn't exactly what he expected. "I was told the phone was in good condition, but there were scratches all over it, a big chip out of the side and it was a different phone. I paid for a Samsung F700 and got a Samsung F700V," Read told The Telegraph. He promptly returned the phone to Jones and asked for a refund, following up with some negative feedback stating that the phone he received was scratched, chipped, and did not match the model number from the auction. Seems pretty standard, up to this point.
Jones ended up giving Read a refund, but not before declaring that the negative feedback was damaging his business of selling electronics online. Jones began threatening legal action against Read unless he deleted the comments. Read responded that he was appalled by this behavior and said that he would go to court if necessary.
Well, be careful what you wish for. Read found himself the recipient of a pre-court letter from Jones saying that he would be taken to court for £175 and attorney's fees. As to why he filed the suit, Jones told the Telegraph that the feedback was "unfair" and "unreasonable," and that the refund should have warranted positive feedback instead. "I'm losing money by the day and my business could go under because of it. I've been left with no option but to take legal action and I'm sure I'll be successful," Jones said.
It appears as if Jones may have filed this lawsuit regardless of eBay's new feedback system, but many believe that involving the courts in eBay transactions gone wrong could become more common as a result of eBay's elimination of negative feedback for sellers. eBay announced the changes to the system back in February, when it said it was trying to clamp down on tit-for-tat feedback, in which buyers are reluctant to be entirely honest about transactions because they don't want to receive negative feedback in return. eBay noted at the time that sellers were eight times more likely to retaliate in kind against negative feedback, a figure that had grown dramatically over the years.
Needless to say, sellers were a bit miffed at eBay's feedback changes, and organized a week-long strike that resulted in 13 percent fewer listings on eBay. But, for many people who make a living selling stuff online, eBay is essential to business, and many have begrudgingly returned. Although they can no longer leave negative feedback for buyers, things appear to be operating smoothly—more or less—on the auction site. Libel lawsuits take tit-for-tat feedback a bit too far, however. The sky isn't falling just yet, but if more sellers decided to go after their buyers in the same way Jones has, buyers may be seen running for the hills en masse.