Thursday March 1, 2001

eBay Anti-Spam System Blocks Legitimate Bids

By Deborah Durham-Vichr
NewsFactor Network

Due to an anti-spamming system launched by eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) last week, some sellers are finding it tougher than ever before to make a sale on the Internet auction site.

The software that eBay developed over months and installed at an undisclosed cost last Wednesday to filter junk mail -- a problem plaguing eBay community members -- apparently also blocks legitimate offers from potential buyers to sellers.

eBay spokesperson Kevin Pursglove told NewsFactor Network that the company has been actively working on a solution to the problem since receiving complaints at eBay's customer service center.

"This evening or tomorrow at the latest, we'll have the problem solved," Pursglove said Wednesday.

In the meantime, eBay intends to keep the anti-spamming software in place.

Jammed Mail

"They really should have 'fixed it' before they rolled it out," Rick Gagliano, editor of Internet auction Webzine Downtown, told NewsFactor. "Users are overwhelmingly opposed to it -- like 90 percent."

However, Pursglove told NewsFactor that fewer than 300 users complained, although several hundred thousand pieces of e-mail are processed by eBay's customer support center each week.

"That's a relatively small amount. Nevertheless, if it were just 10 or 15 [users], we would still do what we could on our end to help," he said.

Pursglove said that the two main inconveniences caused by the new junk mail filter are actually on the side of users' ISPs or users' own junk mail filters. "Either the e-mail [that users] are expecting gets bounced to their delete file as spam, or some [users] have modified their own [anti-spamming] software, which has opened them up to junk mail," explained Pursglove.

eBay Herd

Many eBay users are angry not only about missing mail and lost sales, but also because they feel that their opposition to the new e-mail system was not acknowledged by eBay.

"We told them about this beforehand on discussion boards, especially eBay's Discuss New Features Board. People are really tired of changes that limit their ability to do business on eBay," Gagliano said.

The new e-mail system was designed to allow users to contact each other directly through eBay's system without learning the e-mail addresses of bidders and sellers. That, eBay said in its announcement of the launch, would help block spam.

However, it would also prevent users from contacting each other off-site to circumvent paying fees to the auction giant.

Not in Order

E-mail controversy is not entirely new for eBay, which received public complaints after it reset mail preferences for millions of users last December. The changes effectively signed users up to receive unsolicited e-mail. Chat boards at the time reflected users' complaints, and auction guilds encouraged members to report the violation.

On the whole, February has been a long month for eBay, marked by sporadic outages and slow searches. Between February 19th and 22nd, the company experienced dozens of garbled returns, instances of auction pages not opening, and a temporary crash at about 6 p.m. EST on February 19th.

eBay also suffered through an 11-hour outage in early January.

Tuesday February 27, 2001

eBay sellers say new anti-spam system is backfiring

By Troy Wolverton
Staff Writer, CNET

eBay's new e-mail system, which was designed to limit the amount of junk mail sent to its members, is instead forcing some sellers to weed through stacks of unsolicited e-mail to find legitimate messages from bidders.

Launched last week, the new mail system allows eBay members to contact one another without revealing their e-mail addresses. But because of the way the system addresses e-mail, programs designed to block spam, or unsolicited e-mail, are filtering out some of the messages sent through the new system.

Some eBay sellers say the only way they have found to ensure they receive messages from bidders is to turn off their spam filters and go through messages one by one.

"This is bad," said Kathy Harvey, an eBay seller from Moline, Ill. "We all knew in advance that this was not going to work, and it's not working."

eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove said that members' mail filters are weeding out some of the messages sent by the company's new mail system. Some members have been able to address the problem by modifying their filters, he said.

"We're looking at some ways to address it here to make this more convenient for people," he said. "We're exploring a number of options."

eBay announced the new e-mail system last month as part of a policy that restricts access to customer e-mail addresses. Before the policy, any member could look up another member's e-mail address.

Now, sellers can access the e-mail addresses of bidders on their auctions, and winning bidders can access the e-mail addresses of sellers. eBay funnels all other member e-mail messages through a mail system on its servers.

The company has said that spam is among the biggest complaints of its members. But some members have charged that the purpose of the policy is to prevent members from making deals outside of eBay. eBay has taken steps to discourage off-system deals, but eBay representatives say they cannot stop them.

The new e-mail system directs messages sent through it to recipients without placing anything in the "send to" field of the message. Since the sender can receive a carbon copy of the e-mail, the ostensible purpose is to hide the recipient's e-mail address from the sender.

But many filtering programs are weeding out messages that omit a recipient's address, because spammers often send blind carbon copy messages to dozens of recipients at one time. The recipient of a blind carbon copied message often will not see anything in the "send to" field.

Although some filtering programs can be adjusted to allow desired mail to pass through, the only way for sellers to guarantee that they will receive legitimate messages would be to turn off the filters.

eBay's new mail system is an "imperfect solution to a legitimate problem," said Eytan Urbas, vice president of marketing at, which provides a service that weeds out junk mail. "In order to effectively use eBay, members will have to accept a greater amount of spam. That seems to me an unfair trade off."

Kathy, a seller from Rockford, Mich., who declined to give her last name, said her e-mail filters were placing messages from her bidders into her junk mail folder. She turned off the filters and said she is now getting about 30 spam messages a day in her in-box.

"This has become nuisance," she said. "It is totally unacceptable to me."



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