Earlier this week I was surprised to get an email from eBay stating that my eBay account was being restricted because it had been linked to another restricted account. Suspecting that this might be some sort of phishing attempt, I logged into eBay, only to discover that the email was in fact legitimate. Reading through the message in more detail, I was surprised to see that the other account belonged to a former employer, who I parted ways with several years earlier.

Given that since parting ways I had moved to a different state, and had no contact with them whatsoever, I found it strange that eBay should have found a link between our accounts. Thinking that this must have been some sort of mistake, and that it would be an easy thing to fix I logged on to eBay’s support chat. Oh how mistaken I was.

I was connected with an agent, Rahul, who assured me that he would look into my problem and help me with a resolution. After looking into the issue Rahul advised me that eBay had determined that there was a link between my account and the other account, which was based on a variety of information, such as shared contact, computer information and selling behaviors. He advised me that this was to prevent account holders from bypassing account restrictions.

I was then advised that I could have this restriction lifted by contacting the other member, and getting them to resolve the issues with their account. Once their account had its restrictions removed then the restrictions on my account would be removed. At this point I mentioned that when I looked at the other account it showed as no longer a member, and asked for exactly how they determined the accounts were linked. Rahul simply said that the links between accounts were strong enough, they felt that there was a risk of issues recurring on my account.

Now, at this point I need to mention a few things. eBay seem to be operating on the assumption that because there were similar behaviors between accounts that I was in control of both accounts, or was allowing my account to be used by someone else. At this point I still felt that I had some chance of proving otherwise, and having the restrictions on my account lifted. Also worth mentioning was that because the other account was no longer active, I had assumed that I was completely unable to sell.

After I stated that the account was not mine, and that I had not been in contact with the other account holder I was told the following (exact quote from the chat transcript):

03:50:11 UTC Rahulkumar
We have observed some risk patterns from your previous transactions, which caused bad buying experiences which were reported to you in the form of warnings. However, there was no change in the selling pattern and as a result, we have to indefinitely restrict your selling privileges in all regions.

From this it seems that eBay believe that the other account belongs to me, and that I am using my own account to circumvent an account restriction. I let Rahul know at this point that I had not in fact had any warnings on my account. Rahul simply gave me a link to contact the other account holder and repeated that it would be left to me to contact the other seller and get them to resolve their account issues.

I stated that I was not willing to do this, as I had no contact with the other account, and found it outrageous to expect me to fix someone else’s problem. At this point Rahul posted the following before abruptly ending the chat:

03:52:12 UTC Rahulkumar

I can see that your account is linked with the suspended which is permanently suspended.

03:52:16 UTC Rahulkumar

Your account was suspended because it exhibits a risk to eBay and to its community. We’re not comfortable with your selling practices or business model, and we feel they don’t help to promote a positive buying and selling environment.

03:52:21 UTC Rahulkumar

As eBay is an internet-based business, and its members are our customers, we have to carefully weigh the risks involved in allowing users on our site.

03:52:22 UTC Rahulkumar

While we understand that you may not agree with our decision not to grant your appeal, please understand that this decision is final and will not be reversed.

03:52:24 UTC Rahulkumar

We have determined that it is in our mutual best interest to part ways. We regret any frustration or inconvenience this matter may cause you. Even though you can’t sell on our website, you can still use your account to buy or bid on items. If you have time.

03:52:26 UTC Rahulkumar
Thank you for contacting eBay Live Help, have a great day ahead.

So to summarise, eBay thinks that my account is linked to that of someone I worked for several years previously, and assumes because that account has an unresolved issue that my account is being used to circumvent an account restriction. Worse, they assume that I am in control of the other account, and am in a position to be able to rectify issues with that account. The final kick in the teeth is that they do not provide any means of appealing the restrictions placed on my account.

Having been disconnected eBay’s chat bot asked if I still required help. At this point I was rather pissed at being disconnected so abruptly, so I requested further help. I was connected to a new agent, Joyce. After reviewing the previous chat Joyce mentioned that they understood that I was upset, but that their decision was based on evidence for records, and that the restriction was permanent, and as a result I would no longer be able to participate in selling, but could use my account to purchase still.

When I pressed for more details reasons as to how eBay had determined my account was linked to the other, Joyce simply stated that they were unable to provide details, but that since their system shows strong linkage that the system considered them linked. Joyce then suggested I contact friends and family to see if they had issues with their accounts, and to get them resolved.

At this point I disclosed the fact that I was aware that the other account belonged to my former employer. I mentioned that it had been several years since I left their employment, and that since I had not left on good terms I did not feel comfortable contacting them to ask them to resolve their account issues. Joyce maintained that the only way forward was to get the other account’s issues resolved. At this point I requested they let me know which information was similar between accounts. I was informed that they could not do that before the chat was abruptly disconnected.

I requested further help from the chat bot, and was connected with Tanvi. My conversation with Tanvi was much the same as the previous two, with the exception of some statements that caught my eye:

04:24:31 UTC Tanvi

I understand that you may not be aware of who that company or person is and we are not holding you responsible

04:24:54 UTC Tanvi

We have already tried to contact them multiple times and they have ignored our emails. Since, there were strong links found between your account and the other persons account, it has affected your account.

So, according to Tanvi, they realise I may not know the other person, and they are not holding me responsible, but they’re still restricting my account regardless. Even worse, they have apparently tried to resolve issues themselves, without success, but apparently it’s reasonable to expect me to do this for them.

At this point Tanvi provided me with the same link to contact the other account that Rahu had given me, so I decided to see what would happen if I attempted to send a message to an inactive account. I wasn’t surprised when I received an error. I advised Tanvi of this, and requested to be escalated to a supervisor. I was told to expect a response withing 4 hours:

04:36:01 UTC Tanvi

Still if you want I can arrange an email from supervisor within 4hrs

At this point I resigned myself to waiting for a supervisor to respond. I wasn’t surprised when the four hour time frame quoted by Tanvi passed without an email. Since it was now past eBay’s support hours I decided to wait until the following day to follow up again. In order to prevent this getting any longer, I will detail the followup in another post.