It’s a New Year, but it’s business as usual for the liars and location abuse. One of my first eBay purchases of the year, ostensibly from a UK seller, has arrived complete with customs forms from an overseas seller.
This wasn’t a particularly spectacular purchase, simply a battery operated pencil sharpener but the Item location was clearly displayed as ‘London, United Kingdom’. Just for a change, this time it wasn’t a Chinese seller but one from the Philippines.
To be fair to the seller, the item arrived 3 day’s earlier than eBay’s predicted arrival date and the product is perfect. That however is beside the point – If I’d needed to return it what consumer rights do I have? Did the seller pay UK VAT? Is the seller paying UK Corporation Tax? Is the seller indeed doing anything other than lie and cheat?
Far from the issue of location abuse being reduced, it’s a pandemic which is spreading not just on eBay but also on other marketplaces and in multiple countries. Sellers in the Far East do have great products at low prices, but much of this advantage is often because they are not paying their dues in taxation.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between legitimate UK sellers and location abuse from sellers in the Far East. Item location, seller location are too easy to fake and in this case the seller displays what appears to be a legitimate VAT numbers, although the address they display in Business Information is pure fiction.
In reality the item was shipped into Heathrow via a UK Freight Forwarder based in Southall. There are at least three freight forwarders operating from this address (4PX, Express Worldwide Logistics, and Globexair). They specialise in flying products in bulk from sellers in the Far East, over labelling them with a Royal Mail label having already passed the tracking number and pre-advice to eBay, and then shipping to the consumer.
It’s worth pointing out that it’s fair game for sellers from the Far East to sell in the UK, just as UK sellers also sell around the world. Whilst the competition may be unwelcome, the whole point of ecommerce is that it’s possible to buy and sell globally. I wouldn’t in many instances have a problem buying from an overseas seller and often do, but location abuse masquerading as UK sellers isn’t fair game and is simply blatantly telling a lie in order to appeal to consumers. It gives an unfair advantage in search results and, at least in many cases in the past an unfair advantage through not paying taxes due.
It is obvious that the marketplaces themselves haven’t got a grip on location abuse. HMRC may or may not have the sellers on their radar and be collecting tax. Buy ultimately perhaps it’s buyers that have the most power in the form of negative feedback. Already the feedback for the seller I purchased from has fallen to 98.2% with 85 negatives in the past month. A few more and their account will be another demoted in search or banned from the marketplace.