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eBay Places Ads on Seller Item Pages
By Ina Steiner
July 30, 2007
There's been a long-standing tension between eBay and its sellers over advertising on the site. In particular, sellers who pay eBay fees to list items on the marketplace have long protested any moves to put ads on View Item pages (the page containing listing photos and description). But it appears eBay is pushing into that territory in a subtle way: through the free counters it offers sellers. Sellers who use eBay's counters began noticing on Thursday an ad for Experian credit reports on their View Item pages.
Andale had for many years held an exclusive contract with eBay to provide free counters in sellers' listings. Andale paid eBay, and in return was able to include a small branded image under the counters that linked to Andale's website where it sold auction-management services. Andale chose not to renew the contract in early 2006. Vendio has since bought the company and continues to offer the free auction counters to eBay sellers through its own site. In the meantime, eBay replaced the Andale free counters with its own unless a seller opted out.
Last July, eBay formed a partnership with AOL in which its own counters linked to a special co-branded page within the Security & Resolution Center section on eBay. There, in addition to information about staying safe from phishing and identity theft, was an editorial pitch that linked to a page promoting AOL's fee-based "Safety and Security" offering. The page remains on the site (http://pages.ebay.com/securitycenter/eBay%2DAOL).
But now, the counters contain a link that reads, "Free Credit Report & Score from Experian, Click Here." eBay spokesperson Catherine England said on Friday that the purpose of the links on the counters "is to provide information that would be helpful to our community - it's a value-added service and we are very selective about who we feature."
England said the counters are an optional feature that sellers can use at no charge and said, "the link only appears in listings where sellers have chosen to use the counter."
One seller who wrote to AuctionBytes about the links said, "I just noticed a new advertisement on all my item pages for Free Experian Credit Reports. That really bothers me. I consider the item page space I have purchased from eBay for a high fee where I will advertise my items for sale - not another entity! Sellers are not allowed to add their website addresses to the item page. Why can eBay add links that will take buyers out of my item pages? I work very hard to get people to visit my items so they will buy from me - not be distracted by some nonsense I have no control over."
AuctionBytes has not yet confirmed from eBay the type of revenue it receives from such links on its free counters.
eBay sellers who don't want the eBay counters to appear on their Item pages can turn off the setting in their preferences, and there are several vendors offering their own free counters that can be used in eBay listings.