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Terms & Conditions: When it comes to privacy, eBay is the anti-Facebook

Terms-and-Conditions-eBay-hWhat are you really agreeing to when you click that fateful “agree” button? Terms & Conditions cuts out the legal lingo to spell it out in plain English.

On March 26, eBay will adopt an all new User Agreement and Privacy Policy for its users. Fortunately for us, the online auction site has already posted the updated documents, so we can take a look before they actually go into effect. Below, I’ll review what eBay’s new site governance documents mean for users.

User Agreement

As a whole, eBay’s User Agreement (a.k.a. it’s terms of service) is clearly written – and even more so with the latest changes. That said, it’s a monster of a document. Which makes sense given eBay’s purpose – buying and selling goods – and its scope, depth, and international presence. So what we’ll do here is trim things down to the most important bits.

Dispute that

A big chunk of eBay’s User Agreement have to do with disputes between buyers and sellers. While eBay “strongly encourage buyers to work with sellers before opening a claim relating to a purchase,” the company will step in to settle disputes. All sellers are required to abide by the eBay Buyer’s Protection policy, which means sellers have to provide eBay with a way to pay for any items that buyers say they paid for but did not receive, or some other major problem. In turn, eBay will provide both buyers and sellers with “access to each other’s names, user IDs, email addresses, other contact information, and other information relating to the case, including without limitation, any relevant documentation obtained from a third party.” So try to figure that stuff out on your own, if possible.

Hold this

If eBay thinks something is fishy with a sale or purchase, the company can ask PayPal to put your funds on hold indefinitely. PayPal funds can be held for a number of reasons, including “selling history, seller performance, riskiness of the listing category, or the filing of an eBay Buyer Protection claim.”

Como se what?

If you are trying to buy something from eBay that is listed in another language, the company will provide translation services for you. Just know that the company does not guarantee that the translation will be correct.

Pay up

Simply bidding on eBay doesn’t cost you anything. But the company does charge a fee for listing items. If you don’t pay this fee, eBay will come at you with debt collectors – and that means never being able to answer your phone for fear of the world’s biggest douchebag is on the other end of the line.

Is that right?

Sellers are fully responsible for accurately listing their items. Conversely, buyers are responsible for reading the description of items. If either party screws up their part, that’s not eBay’s fault.

Rules and regulation

eBay has a bunch of rules for what people can and cannot do on the site. But they basically sum up to: don’t do anything illegal, including harassing people, or engaging in copyright infringement. If you break the rules, eBay could delete your account. It also reserves the right to delete any listings it wants to delete “for any reason.”

Let’s take this outside (court)

Like many companies these days, eBay stipulates that all legal issues between you and the company should be settled through arbitration rather than in a court room. However, if you just signed up for eBay, you can fill out an opt-out form, which must be mailed to eBay within 30 days after joining the website.

Also like other companies, eBay pads out its terms with a provision that rejects any attempts to file class action lawsuits against the company. In other words, all suits must be filed on an individual basis.

Privacy Policy

As you can imagine, eBay has a lot of information about its customers – names, addresses, payment information, phone numbers – the works. And if eBay were Facebook, you would have reason to freak out. Fortunately, eBay is not Facebook – in fact, I’d go so far as to call it the anti-Facebook.

In other words, eBay does not make money by using your data to sell ads. “We do not sell or rent your personal information to third parties for their marketing purposes without your explicit consent,” write the company in its User Agreement. What it does use your data for is confirming that you are who you say you are, for processing sales, and for running its auction service. That’s pretty much it.

As mentioned, however, eBay will share some of your personal information with a buyer or seller in cases of dispute. It will also provide your personal data to law enforcement when necessary – so be careful if you’re trying to hock your illegally unlocked smartphone; you might not get away with it.