Is eBay… eVil?

I just got an e-mail from our friends at eBay that I felt was worthy of mention. It is a change to their terms of service. Normally these things are just small changes or adjustment, but this one had two things that raised my eyebrows:

The User Agreement contains an Agreement to Arbitrate, which will, with limited exception, require you and eBay to submit claims to binding and final arbitration, unless you opt-out of the Agreement to Arbitrate by November 9, 2012. Unless you opt-out: (1) you will only be permitted to pursue claims against eBay on an individual basis, not as part of any class or representative action or proceeding and (2) you will only be permitted to seek relief (including monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief) on an individual basis.

Hmmm…. looks like a fairly transparent attempt by eBay to avoid class-action lawsuits. While I am no fan of class-action lawsuits where the lawyer gets $10M and I get a voucher for $0.89 off my next purchase, I don’t like any thing that takes away my right to join one. I also have a bug problem with  compulsory-arbitration clauses. Not only are they unconstitutional (Amendment 7: “In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.“), but there is something of a conflict of interest; if the arbitrator is being paid by eBay I question their ability to come to a fair and unbiased decision.

You don’t need to take any further action to accept the updated eBay User Agreement. If you choose not to accept the new terms, visit this help page for further direction.

And the link points to… TERMINATE YOUR ACCOUNT! That’s not “further direction” that’s “Grasshoppa, time for you to leave…“.You can opt out of the agreement to arbitrate without opting out of the updated user agreement, but they don’t exactly make it easy. Rather than giving you an “Opt-out-of-it-now” link, you are required to opt-out in writing by a specific date. They don’t exactly make that information easy to find, either – so in the interest of public information, here it is.

Sincerely,

Braden Dong, Senior Counsel
Marcus Morissette, Privacy Counsel

Ah. Written by the lawyers – why am I not surprised? Something smells funny here, and the whole thing seems very very sneaky.

Of course, this is all academic to me; earlier this year I decided to top selling things on eBay, since they seem to have become the buyers’ friend and the sellers’ enemy.

But it seems that every time they change their terms they become a little more… evil.

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