Australian competitor, users take on eBay

Paymate lodges complaint with ACCC over eBay's efforts to convince buyers that PayPal is the safest, most secure online payment method

EBay doesn't seem to be out of the woods just yet.

Despite having officially withdrawn its plan to require sellers using its Australian auction site to use only PayPal - a payment service owned by eBay - as their electronic payments processor, eBay is facing a backlash from users and one rival.

Last week, Paymate, an eBay rival in online payment processing, lodged a formal complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), regarding what it called eBay's restrictive trade practices.

And angry eBay users are threatening to take the online auction giant to court over the "aggressive manner in which eBay continues to promote PayPal as its preferred payment method."

Although eBay has backed off plans to require eBay Australian sellers to accept only PayPal as their online payment method, it still requires sellers to accept PayPal as one of their payment methods.

In Paymate's view, eBay's actions are anti-competitive because the company is forcing sellers to offer PayPal. Paymate also said eBay is restricting the ability of Paymate or other online payment processors to be adopted because eBay won't allow sellers to express a preference for any particular method, it promotes PayPal aggressively to buyers to imply it is the "default" method, and it doesn't provide sellers and buyers with information about alternative payment options.

Paymate also objects to eBay's efforts to convince buyers and sellers that PayPal is the safest, most secure online payment method, which implies that other online payment options, such as Paymate, are less secure.

Paymate said such action is a breach of Australia's Trade Practices Act. Paymate is asking the ACCC to require eBay to immediately cease its conduct or face prosecution by the ACCC in the Federal Court.

"I hope the ACCC and eBay will see the sense in our submission, which helps eBay meet its goal of reducing 'bad buyer experiences' while giving buyers and sellers a free choice of payment method," said Dilip Rao, managing director of Paymate, in a statement. "We can surely trust Australians to make a sensible choice, balancing risks and costs, if they are given reasonable information on all payment options online."

A review process with the ACCC is still underway.

EBay Australia spokesman Daniel Feiler could not be reached for comment on the Paymate action.

Infuriated users are also taking on eBay over this issue. A group of eBay members are planning to take eBay to court for among other things, its "misrepresentation, suppression of other payment methods, deletion of sellers' listings without cause, refusal to allow sellers to pass on PayPal charges and the issuing of misleading statements to further the illusion that PayPal is more secure than other established and proven payment methods."

Feiler, reached earlier, said eBay will not speculate on any threatened legal action by a group of sellers, instead preferring to work with sellers to keep eBay Australia's leading online marketplace.

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Linda Rosencrance

Computerworld

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