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Seller Sues Buyer For Negative Feedback

Posted by Michael Bloch in ecommerce (Saturday April 20, 2013 )

It’s a messy situation and one with important points for both sellers and buyers to contemplate.
A seller on eBay has apparently launched a law suit against a buyer who left negative feedback.

In brief, here’s how the situation has been playing out:

– Buyer paid for goods and shipping.
– Buyer then had to pay an extra $1.44 in postage due
– Buyer was annoyed and left negative feedback on eBay
– Seller refunded the $1.44
– Seller demanded the negative feedback be removed
– Seller then launched a law suit when it wasn’t
– Negative publicity and potential counter-legal action follows

It seems the seller had a spotless eBay record prior to this situation. You can read more about it here.

There’s of course more “he said, she said” to it than that; but it does raise some serious issues for ecommerce generally, particularly in this day and age of the POC (Perpetually Outraged Consumer).

The “POC” label and the following isn’t a comment on either party specifically or this particular incident; just the dangers in these sorts of situations.

One of the most important issues is merchants perhaps considering issues too small to lose any sleep over. To some customers, what may be considered generally to be a minor issue can be A Very Big Thing – big enough to start posting around the web about it. Small incidents can snowball very quickly if not addressed properly.

The other point needing serious contemplation by merchants is the one of litigation against a customer. Unless a merchant is absolutely, 100% in the right and all other avenues for mediation are exhausted; it’s a dangerous course of action as the buyer can then be viewed as a martyr who is striking a blow for the little guy in the battle against Evil Business. Even if a merchant wins a legal case, the fallout surrounding it can be incredibly damaging.

And here’s a point that consumers need to bear in mind – and this will only resonate with those who have a conscience. Consumers need to understand just how damaging a publicly posted negative review can be – and exaggerating or misreporting any point can be very difficult for merchants to debate given the dynamics of the situation.

Yes, some merchants need a swift kick up the ass – but so too do some buyers.

Merchants make mistakes – and honest ones too. If you have a gripe, “escalate before eviscerate”; meaning escalate the issue with the merchant first if you’re not satisfied and be sure you have all the facts straight before publicly dragging a merchant’s name through the virtual mud. Remember that freedom of speech is not freedom from responsibility and accountability and you may be taken to task for what you post.

The point I’m making is that both parties need to keep things in perspective, not knee jerk react and turn a molehill into a mountain. Creating a storm in a teacup not only has ramifications for the parties involved, but ecommerce itself as it all adds to the cost of doing business; costs that must be passed on.


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