In Part II of our article series on eBay's VeRO program, we want to explain the details of the VeRO program so you know exactly how it works and what you need to be thinking about when you are buying products to sell and creating eBay listings.
The goal of the VeRO program is to ensure that sellers on eBay do not in any way misrepresent the products that they are selling, nor do they engage in copyright infringement when creating listings. In Parts IV and V of our article series we will spend time discussing how to best avoid running afoul of the VeRO program. For now, you should just understand that:
- If you are selling a branded item, for example Coach purses, Lacoste shirts, Yves St. Laurent fragrances or iPhone accessories, you must be absolutely certain that your products are genuine.
- When you create a listing for a branded product, you may not use copyrighted images, text or any other materials without permission.
- When you create a listing for a product that is not branded, but that may act as an alternative to brand name item (such as an MP3 player that has many of the same functions as an iPod), you may not promote the item as an iPod look-alike or substitute. The product must be promoted by describing its own features alone.
Once your listing is up, it is subject to scrutiny by rights owners. A rights owner is the company or the individual who holds the intellectual property rights to a product, image or description. Both eBay and the rights owners regularly monitor the site for intellectual property infringements. Intellectual property rights owners can request removal of listings that they claim, under penalty of perjury, offer an item, or contain material that infringes on their intellectual property rights. These rights can include trademark, copyright and other legal rights. For example, the item being sold may bear the rights owner's trademark (such as a logo on a designer purse), but may not be an authentic product.
Before a listing is removed, the rights owner must fill out a form that is designed to ensure that the person reporting the item is authorized to do so. The Notice of Claimed Infringement (NICO) is a very simple form that does not actually ask the submitter to provide any proof of its claim to ownership rights, except to sign under the pains of and penalties of perjury. While that should be a strong deterrent, it's weakened by the difficulties inherent in challenging that assertion in a court of law when the “rights owner” can be living anywhere around the world. Here's a link so you can take a look at the form. http://pages.ebay.com/help/community/NOCI1.pdf. You'll notice that, while the claimant must indicate the general category of infringement, there is no requirement for the claimant to be specific enough to give the seller real information about the issue in question.
If your item is reported, you will receive an email explaining why your listing was removed. The email will list the general reason, and provide an email address so that you can contact the claimant to discuss the matter. eBay will suggest that you attempt to resolve the issue by working with the claimant.
If you receive a VeRO email and do not understand why you have been targeted, one of the first things that you may do is to search for similar items for sale by other sellers and, chances are, you will find lots of them. eBay's explanations for why your item has been targeted and other sellers with the same product and similar listing seem to have escaped notice are:
- There might be a difference between your listing or item and the other that isn't obvious.
- The other seller might be a rights owner who can sell an item (for example an authorised retailer).
- A participant in the VeRO Program might have requested that your listing be removed, but didn't request that others be removed. These decisions are made by VeRO participants and not by eBay. For more information about why a VeRO participant asked to have your listing removed, contact the VeRO participant using the email address that was included in the email eBay sent you.
- Your listing was reported to us, but another was not.
You have the option to report other sellers who may have escaped notice as well.
If your listing is cancelled, eBay may or may not refund your fees. If they do, the fees related to the ended listing will be automatically credited to your account within one billing cycle.
Even if you think your listing shouldn't have been ended, don't relist it without first finding out why it was removed. Relisting an item that has been removed could result in suspension from eBay. You could also be subject to legal action in some cases. You need to either contact the claimant of file or file a counter-notice. (More on how to approach a suspension in Part VII.) If the claimant withdraws the complaint, or eBay agrees that your item was removed in error, you can relist it. Unfortunately, you'll have to recreate the listing from scratch.
Before we go on to talk about how to avoid VeRO problems, and what to do if you find yourself in the middle of a VeRO problem, Part III of our series discusses the stakeholders involved in the VeRO program, and why this program is such a problem for legitimate sellers.