Ebay faces user boycott

German users of online auction house Ebay are planning to boycott the site in protest of changes to its rating system. More than 5,000 users have already added themselves to the list of sellers who will not use Ebay between the 18th and 25th of February. Germany is the second most important market for Ebay.

“Ebay makes me sick. We will show it with an embargo!” wrote a user in an online forum.

Starting in June, sellers in Germany will only be able to give the buyers positive ratings, instead of the negative, neutral and positive ratings as at present. The new rating system takes effect in the US in May. Buyers who have too many negative ratings run the risk of not getting sold to or having to pay a higher price for goods they want to buy. This system functions as an internally generated credit rating system, where customers with worse ratings have to pay a type of risk premium.

The anger in the forums has caused the value of Ebay’s shares to stagnate, as investors are uncertain about the effect the strike will have on the company’s revenues. Since it was founded in 1995, the online auction house has made billions of dollars with its unique system.

In the past few years, the Ebay-ecosystem has become unbalanced and many sellers have been abusing the rating system by punishing buyers who complain with negative ratings. The new system has angered sellers, as they feel it will not protect them from buyers who either cannot or will not pay.

“There are intensive discussions about the new rating system,” Maike Fuest, the spokesperson for Ebay-Germany, told the Berliner Zeitung. She said that the new rating system is “right, because it will strengthen trust in the rating system. In the past years the problem of revenge ratings has gotten worse.”