More than 46 Emails With eBay, or, the Dark Side of the Network Effect

I have exchanged approximately 50 emails with eBay over my latest bill of 1.57 GBP and a 5.00 GBP charge they added for direct debit payment being refused by my bank (it was automatically cancelled after 12 months of inactivity as is standard banking practice – eBay are well aware of this practice). The situation is still not resolved.

I couldn’t have had this experience with eBay if they weren’t (effectively) a monopoly. Almost no other company could be this daft and unresponsive and still expect my custom.

This is the dark side of the network effect: because it makes sense for everyone to be on one auction site, the top auction site quickly becomes the only auction site. Consider this my request for an eBay-killer!

The Emails

20 Oct – Invoice for 1.57 with note that it will be taken by direct debit shortly.

07 Nov – Email telling me my direct debit was declined and that I have been charged 5.00 and now owe 6.57.

I reply asking why. I also hook up my account to pay by PayPal in future as another email requests.

10 Nov – Reminder that I owe 6.57

I reply asking them to remove the 5.00 and take the 1.57 by PayPal any time they like.

15 Nov – They reply telling me my direct debit was declined.

I reply asking which bank the direct debit was with.

17 Nov – They reply a second time to my original reply with the same standard email.

I reply asking them to remove the 5.00 charge as I haven’t cancelled a direct debit and take the balance via PayPal as they can do at any time.

19 Nov – They send the standard direct debit failure message for a second time.

I reply asking which bank account they think they were taking from.

20 Nov – billing send me the invoice again.

I reply, getting somewhat frustrated, with a plea for help, my telephone number and a third request for more details on the direct debit.

21 Nov – They send me a standard reminder for payment, again.

I reply asking for the direct debit details for the fourth time.

21 Nov – Customer Support email me telling me they are happy to help and can explain everything. It’s because my direct debit was declined (no details)!

I reply asking for the direct debit details for the fifth time.

23 Nov – They send me a third standard reminder for payment (fifth, if you include invoices).

23 Nov – Customer support finally send me the details of the direct debit. I call my bank and discover that they cancelled the direct debit because of 12 months of non-use which is, “standard banking practice” and, “any company would know this”. So why did eBay try to take payment from a direct debit that they know had not been used in 12 months?

I reply asking why they have tried to take money from an out-of-use direct debit and asking for 5.00 credit.

23 Nov – They send me the same identical email a second time 7 minutes later.

26 Nov – They send me a completely blank email.

I reply asking them to try again!

27 Nov – They send the standard direct debit failure message for the third time.

I reply explaining about the direct debit cancelled as standard banking practice and asking for credit.

28 Nov – They send me a fourth standard reminder for payment.

I reply explaining the situation and asking for 5.00 credit.

29 Nov – Customer Support tell me they have passed the query to Billing.

I reply saying thanks.

29 Nov – They send me a bizarre reply telling me they are happy to have me as a member and wishing me, “Happy Trading!”

01 Dec – They send me a fifth standard reminder for payment.

I reply explaining the situation and asking for a 5.00 credit.

At this point they somehow wake up and realise they can take the money by PayPal. They take all 6.57.

03 Dec – Customer Support send me the “no instruction” email explaining why a direct debit might have been refused. Reason (1) is: “Direct Debits which have been out of use for a year or more may be automatically cancelled by your bank due to inactivity.” So they do know this happens! They just try to take payment anyway!

I reply explaining that reason (1) is the reason and asking for 5.00 credit.

03 Dec – They send me the standard direct debit refused email for the fourth time.

I reply explaining the situation and asking for 5.00 credit.

04 Dec – They reply to one of my emails asking for credit as if they haven’t read it and saying thanks for the payment it’s all sorted out now. They also tell me to disregard demands for payment because they are, “system generated”.

I am now in despair. I reply threatening Trading Standards and to contact the BBC’s Watchdog program. And explaining the situation, and asking for 5.00 credit.

05 Dec – They send me the direct debit refused email for the FIFTH time.

06 Dec – They send me the “no instruction” explanation email for the second time.

I flip out and send them a mostly-caps response begging for someone to understand me, or call me, or something. It contains the line, “COME ON I DARE YOU, SEND ME AN INTELLIGENT REPLY!”

07 Dec – Customer Support email me telling me that I will get a credit. Although they also suggest contacting my bank to find out why and include other information that is clearly redundant if they had read the email they are replying to I don’t care because I have finally made the breakthrough!

09 Dec – Customer Support reply telling me I will be credited 5.00 shortly and apologising for the delay.

I reply saying thanks.

10 Dec – Customer Support writes to me telling me that it is up to the member to make sure direct debits work and that I won’t be getting a 5.00 credit. This is in reply to my email of 01 Dec, not any of the subsequent ones, so I’m not sure how seriously to take it.

Update 2007-12-13 Email 47 – Customer Support send me the “apology for delay” email for the second time.

Update 2007-03-21: Sent a few more emails in January and a couple more in February and kind of gave up on the whole thing. They just gave me five pounds credit (not refund) this morning.

2 Replies to “More than 46 Emails With eBay, or, the Dark Side of the Network Effect”

  1. Any chance you found an actual contact address for them? I am bitterly complaining to them at the moment, and they have no interest whatsoever in deaqling with me.

  2. Hi Keith, I did see it at some point on a forum somewhere when I was searching around. I just had a quick google now but I couldn’t find it. There’s the address that comes on their invoices: eBay Europe S.à r.l. 15, rue Notre Dame L-2240 Luxembourg Société à responsabilité limitée, Capital social: EUR 12.500 Numéro de TVA: LU 21416127 Numéro de société: R.C.S. Luxembourg B.120781 Autorisation d’établissement: 114463 Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.