Play by the Rules

eBay regulations and guidelines keep buyers and sellers on the same page-of the rule book, that is.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the April 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

I just received an e-mail from a fellow entrepreneur on eBay who was upset that he had been suspended from the site. His e-mail ranted and raved about how unjust and unfair it was. After reading the lengthy rant, I e-mailed him back with just one question: "What did you do to get suspended?" Come to find out, the seller had broken not just one eBay policy, but three of them--repeatedly.

For the most part, eBay works the same way the real world does, with rules, policies and guidelines. Some people seem to think the rules don't apply to them, while others, like Gold PowerSellers Marshall Wendler, 35, and Joli Dodd, 38, of scrapbooking company 2dizzylizards, use the policies to increase their business's profits by ensuring that eBay maintains a level playing field.

A link to eBay's "Policies" page is at the bottom of every page on eBay. The "Policies" page explains how to trade safely, including:

Rules for Sellers: This should be required reading for anyone registered to sell on eBay. Many sellers break these rules and policies by using creative marketing without even realizing it's against eBay policy. Linking outside eBay is one of the most commonly broken rules, as well as keyword spamming and including irrelevant keywords in your product title and description to illegally drive traffic to your auctions. Glendale, Arizona's 2dizzylizards finds that many sellers try to promote their items by abusing this policy. "We have had to report these sellers to eBay for their violation of this policy," says Dodd, "so we don't lose customers to someone who is not playing by the rules."

Prohibited and Restricted Items: Did you know that there are specific regulations concerning buying and selling wine on eBay? And that you can't sell lawn darts on the site? This section will educate you about the sometimes confusing areas of eBay.

Protecting Intellectual Property: Just as there are laws to protect copyrights and trademarks in the real world, there are similar standards for protection on eBay--in the form of the VeRO program, or Verified Rights Owner program. Dodd says her company recommends that its vendors register with the VeRO program on eBay so they can "have more control over how their products are sold on eBay." This program allows vendors to pull any unauthorized listings that occur on the site. When everyone follows the policies, Dodd explains, "we have to rely on our listings and reputations to sell the product, which is one of our [company's] strong points."

If you believe a seller isn't playing by the rules, remember that you can report any listing via the link at the bottom of the page.

Janelle Elms, eBay University instructor and dean of Online Business for LA College International, is creator of the eBay Stores Video Series. Contact her at


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