Now that we have described the VeRO program and discussed the positives and negatives, we want to share some of our members' tips for staying out of the line of fire. We need to start with the disclaimer that it's very difficult to know for certain which strategies will work. In general, we believe that all of the tactics mentioned in Part IV and Part V of our series are acceptable under eBay rules, but you should make your own decision about acceptability.
Product Images – Copyrighted
Many sellers make the mistake of using images of their products that have been taken by the manufacturer. They reasonably assume that the manufacturer has the money and the motivation to take much better pictures than a small seller can manage, so it makes sense to use the best available photography to place the product in the best possible light. Further, it makes sense to believe that the manufacturer would encourage this practice, because it can only be helpful to selling more of their products. Unfortunately, these theories are flawed and the practice constitutes copyright infringement.
You are not allowed to use any copyrighted image in your listing without permission. Manufacturers are not interested in granting permission for eBay sellers to use their copyrighted works, because most manufacturers do not want to find their branded items being sold on eBay. eBay is seen as a discount channel, and manufacturers believe that their products are devalued in this setting, and that eBay poses a threat to their mainstream channels of distribution. So, while you might want to try to gain permission to use their copyrighted work, it's unlikely that you will receive it.
If you do use an image and it is detected, you will get a notice from eBay that reads something like this:
We trust you appreciate that copyright law requires “company name” to protect its intellectual property, and we highly value our copyrights. As such, we request that you immediately stop the use of all “XYZ product” images.
If you get this type of message and you are in fact in violation, fix it before you get suspended, by using your own images of the branded product.
Product Images – Authentication
Many sellers have found that the best way to avoid a VeRO notification is to provide documentary proof of authenticity in the listing. For example, sellers of Ed Hardy clothing will provide a photo of the micro-stitched tag. Other sellers tell us that they provide a photo of part of the invoice or paid receipt from the manufacturer, wholesaler or liquidator, to show the “provenience” of the purchase.
Some sellers tell us that in an effort to be totally clear about their role, they provide a disclaimer in their listing that might read something like this:
'I am not an authorized dealer, distributor, reseller or wholesaler for the brand listed in this auction. I am not endorsed, sponsored or affiliated with the brand name owner. All brand names, logos, trademarks and intellectual property belong to the rights owner and are used for description purposes only.'
Not every seller is convinced that this disclaimer makes sense. It's difficult to know for sure what works in the unpredictable world of eBay VeRO; we offer this suggestion for your consideration.
Several of our members have found that if they list DVDs before the announced release date, even if their auction won't end until the release date or, considering shipping, the DVDs won't get to the customer before the release date, they have been de-listed as a VeRO violation. Since eBay does have a policy that allows up to a thirty day preorder, this violation doesn't seem to make sense. But, if you are in the DVD world, you should tread cautiously in this area. By the way, for DVD sellers, you can also run into a problem if you try to sell promo DVDs. Technically promo CDs and videos remain the property of the label. They are 'loaned', not given. So it's not your property to sell.
Rely on Your Supplier
Your wholesale distributor should be able to provide you with proof of authenticity of the goods they are selling to you. If they can't, don't buy it.
Know the Rules
Many manufacturers have created “About Me” pages that will help you understand how to deal with their products in your listings: http://pages.ebay.com/help/community/vero-aboutme.html.
Under the same general heading of knowing the rules, you need to understand the rules associated with parallel importing, the problem that arises when some products are licensed for sale only in certain countries. This is a complicated enough issue that we have devoted Part VI of our series to explaining it.
Continue on to Part V for more avoidance strategies.