Jajah cries foul over eBay's block

EBay has declared buttons from Internet telephony startup Jajah off limits in its marketplace, saying the violate eBay's policies.

Web-site buttons from Internet telephony startup Jajah that allowed eBay buyers and sellers to initiate phone calls have been banned by eBay, a move that Jajah charges is unjustified.

This week, Jajah released a set of buttons that people can embed on a variety of Web sites to allow others to contact them by phone using the company's Internet telephony platform.

Among the benefits Jajah touts is its ability to drastically reduce the cost of calls thanks to its use of Internet technology and to its agreements with carriers.

Jajah developed a button for eBay, figuring that the ability for buyers and sellers to chat on the phone about potential purchases would be convenient, said Jajah CEO Trevor Healy on Thursday.

Moreover, eBay already provides a similar functionality via its Skype service for some product categories, so there is a precedent for this on the marketplace, he said.

But eBay didn't think so highly of the Jajah plan, ruling that sellers who embed the Jajah button are violating an eBay policy related to the inclusion of links in listings.

The reasoning for the ban is that eBay requires that all interactions between its buyers and sellers occur within its marketplace platform, said Catherine England, an eBay spokeswoman, on Thursday.

This is safer for buyers and sellers and lets eBay keep a record of the activities related to a listing, in case one of the parties puts in a claim against the other and a dispute has to be resolved, England said.

The eBay objection doesn't make total sense to Healy, who counters that Jajah users also have a log of their calls, but he's asking people to stop embedding Jajah buttons on eBay until further notice.

"We don't want to upset eBay, nor do we want our users to get their listings deleted," he said.

Jajah will poll its users to see how many of them are also eBay sellers and would like to have the Jajah functionality on their eBay listings, Healy said.

Based on the findings, Jajah will decide whether to approach eBay to seek a solution. Jajah didn't consult with eBay before making the buttons for the marketplace.

For Jajah, the eBay decision is a setback in its push to make its service available to consumers beyond its regular and mobile Web sites, he said. However, none of the other 30 or 40 other Web sites for which Jajah created buttons -- including Craigslist.com, Bebo.com, LinkedIn.com and MySpace.com -- have objected, he said.

The Jajah buttons violate eBay's Links Policy, England said. In the listings where eBay allows Skype buttons, it requires the buttons be placed in the section devoted to asking sellers a question about the item on sale. This section also includes a mechanism for buyers to type and send a message to sellers.

People can embed the Jajah buttons on their Web pages and social networking profiles by copying and pasting into them a snippet of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) code. Jajah has an explanation of how the buttons work in a blog posting, as well as a writeup specifically about the eBay button in another other blog posting.

EBay doesn't have a way to block the Jajah buttons from being embedded on its listings, but it will remove listings that contain them, England said.

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Juan Carlos Perez

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