Should brands be freely sold on eBay? Part 1

Last month eBay took a petition to the European Union with 3/4 million signatures to ask it to amend EU competition law to stop brands from restricting the sale of their products on the internet.

The petition calls for the EU to halt what it describes as the “abuse” of “selective distribution” agreements which block on-line sales of certain products arguing that the practice unfairly impacts online businesses and entrepreneurs and means the consumer ends up paying more.

It wants greater clarity and support for cross-border internet sales in Europe and wants the way off-line and on-line channels are treated for distribution to be the same.

Most brands oppose selling their products on-line, particularly via eBay, because they feel they lose control of how their products are sold and presented.

Alex von Schirmeister the eBay director general  said: “eBay was built on a simple idea – that it could empower individuals by building a global marketplace where practically anyone could buy or sell practically anything.”

“Unfortunately, that idea is under threat from certain brand owners and manufacturers who are trying to block and restrict unfairly the sale of legitimate products on the internet. Through this on-line petition our community of users is calling on policy-makers to amend European competition law to stop these unfair trade practices.”

There are several aspects to this case which are worth discussing.

Firstly let’s address the question of the re-sale of ‘pre-owned’ branded goods on eBay.

I don’t believe that  the Brands are, in principal, against the re-sale of these items on eBay but I know from bitter experience that some brands make it very hard to list their goods. It is often the case that the brands will instruct eBay to remove listings irrespective of whether they have reason to believe they’re not genuine, and due to the high profile court cases eBay have had with Tiffany’s and LVMH they will be removed (and a ‘strike’ issued against your account). I’ve had several ‘battles’ in my time with my eBay business and the final straw was where a LV suitcase was removed (and a 7 day supsension of eBay trading given) despite there being a photograph of the original sales receipt from LV in Bond Street on the listing!

eBay’s attitude is that you should contact the brand direct, get them to test it, and once authenticity confirmed they should contact eBay to allow the restriction it to be lifted. Well I tried it once with Evisu and, surprise surprise, could not get anyone to even acknowledge my complaint!

So I believe that it is within everyone’s right to be allowed to resell on eBay or through any other channel, any item bought from anywhere in the world without restriction.

I will address the sale of new brands in part 2

Tony Heywood – Gilcrest Services Ltd
Retail Troubleshooter
Business Turnaround and Recovery

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