eBay bans digital downloads

April 3, 2008 // 9:44 a.m.

Tags: #auction #ban #classifieds #digital #download #ebay

In a controversial move which has many regular users up in arms, auction site eBay has chosen to ban the listing of digital download items in the main auction categories.

Instead of being able to list a standard auction – which can run for anything from three days upwards and cost very little – any items which are purely digital will have to be placed in a more expensive 'classifieds' advertisement, which costs a whopping $10. Products covered under the new rules include MP3 downloads, ebooks, and personally-created software for which there is no physical component such as a CD-ROM.

The main reason for the changes is to prevent gaming of the eBay feedback system. In the past it's been quite common for people to sell a worthless ebook for a few pence simply to give and receive feedback on the resultant transaction. Due to this, a seller with a few quid in his pocket and no moral fibre whatsoever can rapidly build up a 'PowerSeller' rating with high positive feedback. As the classifieds section of the site doesn't use the same feedback system as the auction section, the possibility for this has been greatly reduced. At least, that's what eBay hopes.

The move does put buyers at an increased risk of being ripped off, however. With purchases via the classifieds system not going via eBay's normal route, any guarantees or protections the site may offer on auction purchases are null and void. Equally, you'll be unable to leave feedback should your seller fail to deliver the promised download.

If you're desperate to sell your digital content in the traditional – and far cheaper – auction style, then eBay will continue to allow standard listings so long as there is a physical component involved: if you burn your ebook to a CD-ROM or DVD, for example, then it can be auctioned off as normal.

Quite how this move will put off the professional feedback sellers isn't exactly clear. Although the move to ban digital downloads will make it harder – and more expensive – for them to operate, feedback sellers are likely to simply move to selling a single sheet of A4 posted second-class for under a pound. Okay, so it's more than the pence of their old method but there will always be scammers who need feedback fast and are willing to pay.

Ironically, since the change has come into effect there has been an overall increase in the number of items offered for digital download – including people selling links to websites that offer a 'solution' to the digital download ban. Oh, the irony.

Do you think that eBay is finally taking steps to repair confidence in its feedback system, or is it all about milking more money out of the sellers of digital downloads? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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