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Web Watch by Leslie Walker

EBay Sellers Protest Planned Fee Increases

By Leslie Walker
Sunday, January 16, 2005; Page F06

EBay sparked a mini-revolt among its small merchants last week by announcing sharply higher selling fees.

It was the fifth year in a row the sprawling auction site has raised one or more of its prices, but the latest round was broader than usual and boosted some fees by more than 50 percent. The announcement spurred dealers into action, including more than 8,000 who by Friday afternoon had signed an online petition protesting the new rates.

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EBay is "simply raping us in fees," fumed Vicki Yockey of Landrum, S.C., in an e-mail interview. She has closed her electronic "storefront" on eBay in response.

"I understand that prices go up year after year," wrote Rmenda Rice, a part-time dealer in Disney, Okla. "But I don't understand why they must take this big of a jump on fees." Rice plans to experiment with rivals, such as Overstock.com, which recently launched an auction service.

Hani Durzy, an eBay spokesman, said it was too soon to tell how many dealers were leaving eBay Stores, which had 224,000 subscribers in October.

More than two-thirds of goods on eBay are sold in auction format, but the eBay Stores service also lets merchants sell at fixed prices and present all the items they are selling in one place. Next month, eBay is boosting the fee to maintain a basic presence in eBay Stores from $9.95 a month to $15.95, an increase of 60 percent. Moreover, closing commissions on most items sold through eBay Stores will jump by roughly 50 percent.

Also announced was a fee increase to 35 cents from 25 cents to have photos show up in eBay's search listings. In addition, rates will rise for dealers offering a "buy it now" option on goods that sold for $10 or more. EBay's "buy it now" feature currently costs a flat 5 cents; that will jump to 10 cents for goods priced over $10, and 25 cents for items over $50.

The new fees kick in Feb. 18.

Some eBay rates will be dropping, including commissions on certain industrial equipment. Basic fees for standard auctions won't change, but eBay is doubling its fee for auctions that run 10 days, to 40 cents from 20 cents.

Asked for the rationale behind the higher fees -- eBay is hugely profitable, after all -- Durzy offered this prepared statement:

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