Getty / Justin Sullivan eBay CEO John Donahoe
When a consumer watchdog organization alerted eBay that it had found hundreds of counterfeits on the site, eBay blocked the whistleblower's accounts and removed its comments warning people about fake products.
It did this instead of removing the fake products and blocking the sellers of them.
The company, The Counterfeit Report, had just completed a 9-month investigation into counterfeit products being sold on eBay, publisher Craig Crosby, told Business Insider. It had discovered 250 of them, verifying that each one was a fake with the manufacturer.
The Counterfeit Report eBay removed a comment that warned people a product was a fake
For instance, The Counterfeit Report bought a so-called "Sandisk 64GB microSDHC memory card" on eBay. But Sandisk doesn't make such a product and confirmed to The Counterfeit Report that the one bought on eBay was a fake, according to emails shared with Business Insider.
The Counterfeit Report also bought fake Apple iPhone chargers, which have been implicated in starting fires, as well as counterfeit over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, sporting goods, fragrances, auto accessories, and more.
Mistaken For An 'Abusive Buyer'
When Crosby contacted eBay to alert the company of the counterfeits it found on eBay, "eBay retaliated by blocking The Counterfeit Report’s corporate eBay accounts," Crosby said.
eBay also removed The Counterfeit Report's comments on the product pages, it admitted.
When Business Insider questioned eBay about the situation, a spokesperson told us that eBay mistook the whistleblower for something it calls an "abusive buyer."
That's someone who returns a lot of products and leaves a lot of negative comments.
Craig Crosby Craig Crosby, Publisher, The Counterfeit Report
An eBay spokesperson says after hearing from Business Insider and looking at Crosby's work more carefully, the company now wants to work with The Counterfeit Report.
A spokesperson told us:
Based on your inquiry, we have taken a closer look at the situation related to Mr. Crosby. Turns out, we’re fighting the same fight.
We work to protect sellers on eBay from abusive buyers, and have systems in place that watch for this kind of behavior. Based on Mr. Crosby’s pattern of buying and high percentage of returns, our system flagged his actions as being likely "buyer abuse." After a closer look, we now understand that this was actually Mr. Crosby’s way of attempting to identify and remove counterfeit goods on the site.
Counterfeits are illegal and not welcome on any of eBay’s sites and we applaud the efforts of people like Mr. Crosby to help keep our marketplace free of them. As a business with millions of buyers and sellers interacting every day, we rely on the good people in our community to help us spot and stop bad behavior.
After looking into this further, we have reached out to Mr. Crosby to discuss how we can work together in a more formal manner to keep eBay a place where people can shop with trust and confidence.
Not Holding His Breath
Crosby, however, says he's not convinced. He's sparred with eBay before.
In June, eBay blocked The Counterfeit Report from publishing counterfeit product warnings in the product listings section of eBay.
Those alerts were an attempt to warn consumers on how to spot things like fake fragrances and cosmetics, some of which had been verified by to contain hazardous ingredients.
So when eBay reached out to Crosby, he told us, "I’ve heard that song before. I had no doubt I’d get the accounts back, been through this before."
He added, "I’m more interested in the thousands (yes thousands) of consumers that have purchased the products we identified from the counterfeit sellers and don’t know it. eBay states they don’t notify ‘buyer priors’ that they may have purchased a fake."
The Counterfeit Report eBay refuses a refund on a counterfeit product
When we asked eBay about its plans to offer refunds on fake products, it pointed us to its eBay Money Back Guarantee.
That guarantee says a buyer can request an investigation if a product isn't what it's supposed to be. If the seller won't issue a refund, the buyer can ask eBay for a refund.
The first step, however, is that buyers must realize they've bought a fake and that's the part that Crosby is focused on. If eBay can find a way to work with him, that's a good thing for consumers.
An eBay spokesperson also told us that eBay takes accusations of counterfeits seriously.
"eBay runs several anti-counterfeit initiatives including the Verified Rights Owner Program, and is continually introducing new proactive measures to combat the global trade in counterfeits."
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