Online auction listings down 13% in boycott of eBay

The biggest boycott by eBay ebaysellers concludes Monday, capping a week of acrimony after the online-auction site raised fees and changed its feedback policy.

Auction listings on eBay.com dropped some 13% since the strike started Feb. 18 to about 13 million items, according to third-party tracking sites such as dealscart.com and medved.net.

The boycott, amid slowing growth and intensifying competition from Amazon and Google, could presage a challenging year for John Donahoe, eBay's incoming CEO, say analysts.

Like dozens of other boycotts against eBay the past few years, this protest is largely over pricing changes. Though many previous boycotts have fizzled after a few days, the most recent gained more attention through protest-related actions on YouTube and MySpace.

"If (eBay's listings total) falls below 12 million, we've made a pretty good impact," said Nancy Baughman, an eBay PowerSeller who deals antiques and collectibles. She is also co-author of a book on online auctions.

Jim Griffith, dean of eBay Education, declined to comment on third-party statistics, and said that the site's internal statistics show the boycott "has had no impact on our listings." EBay does not publicly release its listings totals.

Fluctuations in eBay's listings can be hard to interpret due to seasonal swings. Complicating matters, eBay ran a one-day promotion Feb. 13 offering steep discounts of fees, which pushed listings up more than 20%.

Still, the impact of the boycott is evident, says David Steiner, president of AuctionBytes.com, a publication for online merchants. "The protestors made a loud statement."

Donahoe, who becomes eBay's CEO in March, recently announced changes to the fees eBay charges. The cost to list items will be cut 25% to 50%, but the commission that eBay charges for completed sales increased, starting last Wednesday. As of May, sellers will no longer be able to leave negative feedback comments for buyers.

"When I heard the changes, I thought it was April Fool's Day," Valerie Lennert, one of the boycott organizers, says, referring to the changes in fees and feedback. She sells doll clothes on eBay.

Lennert has spread her message with an anti-eBay video on YouTube. The video has been viewed 140,000 times. The protestors also created a MySpace page.

Despite the protest, eBay is not considering altering or postponing its policies, Griffith says. "A lot of deliberation went into these decisions," he says.

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