Aussie SMEs speak up over concerns Chinese eBay sellers are engaging in “misrepresentation” by claiming to be Australian

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The impact of overseas sellers on local retail platforms continues to worry small businesses, amid claims Chinese-based eBay vendors are misrepresenting themselves as local brands on the platform.

On Monday, SmartCompany spoke to fishing equipment business Blue Seas Tackle Co about its decision to leave Amazon’s Australian platform after seeing its listings drowned out by overseas sellers.

Owner Neil Adams says he has had a much better experience on eBay, but says he is concerned about the number of foreign sellers who falsely claim their products are shipping straight from Sydney.

“Vendors are putting ‘au stock’ on listing images, saying that they’re doing business from Botany Bay. But when you get to PayPal, it’s obvious they’re in China,” Adams says.

He cites a recent purchase he made on the platform of a Blackview-branded mobile phone that was tagged as “au” stock. He says the product took longer than expected to arrive, was marked as being shipped from China, instead of Sydney, and he believes it was not compliant with Australian sales regulations.

“It arrived with an American plug — it’s illegal to do that in Australia,” he says.

While Adams says he’s had a good experience using the platform, selling upwards of $1000 a month of his products on eBay, he says it’s not right that overseas sellers can disguise their locations in order to win sales from local sellers.

“It’s misrepresentation, and you have to ask — are they paying GST?” he says.

These concerns have been echoed by other SmartCompany readers, as well as sellers on eBay, who have been raising the issue in seller forums for years.

“EBay overseas sellers (China, Malaysia, Singapore, etc) are listing their products as if they are located in Chullora in Sydney, and put 3 week delivery times … eBay does nothing. False advertising!” said one SmartCompany reader yesterday in response to concerns about overseas sellers on Amazon Australia.

“How come Ebay allows China sellers to claim there stock is in Sydney Australia and then it is sent from China. This is False Advertising and not fair to Australian Sellers and Australian Buyers,” an eBay seller asked in the company’s seller forum at the start of this year.

“The thing I don’t understand is how China sellers can claim there items are in stock and even put AU stock on there main listing picture. But when you order from them the item turns up and shows China post on the package.”

Adams believes federal government agencies should be paying much closer attention.

“With some of these listings on eBay, the ATO and customs really need to have a look at them,” he says.

In a statement provided to SmartCompany, an eBay Australia spokesperson said it is a breach of policy “should a seller list its item location inaccurately”.

The retail platform says it is common for sellers to list their business location and their product as being at different sites, however.

“It is common for eBay sellers from international markets to use forward-deployed inventory pools, located in Australia, to provide optimal customer experience for our buyers,” the spokesperson said.

Anyone concerned with the genuine location of a seller on the platform is “encouraged to contact eBay’s customer service”, the company says.

“Go where your customers are”

Retail consultant John Batistich says that there are no geographical boundaries with online retail, so brands may have to make peace with the idea that there will be competitors from all over the globe trying everything they can to undercut their products.

“Retailers are becoming very clever around maybe not misleading, but trying to compete against local retailers by using local listings,” he says. 

“It’s fair to say that the customer is less concerned about where a product comes from, unless it’s a product of great local provenance. They are just looking for the best solution, price, delivery, payment options.” 

Whether Australian retailers are on eBay, Amazon or any other platform, the only factors they can control are being more distinct than their competitors and going directly where their customers are.

It sounds so obvious, but what we’re learnt from everywhere from Alibaba’s online sales to Amazon is that it’s the middle ground — the undifferentiated middle ground — that are the ones who are under a lot of pressure,” he says. 

While local retailers may feel like they’re up against it on these big online platforms, especially Amazon, Batistich believes there is little option but to hold on for the long haul, even if things don’t seem rosy now.

There’s no question some retailers have been very disappointed [by Amazon], but for me, retailers have to be patient: they’re not working on all cylinders yet,” he says. 

He believes that no matter what other competitors are on these platforms, shoppers are moving to this kind of buying, so your only choice is to keep taking up real estate in areas you know they will be heading to. For Amazon, this means holding off on exiting until your business sees the future rollout of the Prime platform in Australia, at least.

The point I’d make is they’re [Amazon] just taking a position in the marketplace now, but don’t have it humming. You will see a shift this year — but I acknowledge there are disappointments [from retailers now].” 

NOW READ: Amazon executives claim to be “misunderstood” by Australians, as small businesses wait for sales to come

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CCN
CCN
2 years ago

How can they be sure they’re not living in Australia but drop shipping from China? So technically… the business is Australian but the stock is offshore? I find this is the case (frequently) for small tech items, like phone cases and chargers etc

Syb
Syb
2 years ago
Reply to  CCN

RUBBISH CCN! It simply comes down to the fact that the Chinese are plainly lying and being deceptive.

CCN
CCN
2 years ago
Reply to  Syb

Wow. That’s not even an attempt at thinly veiled racism. Shame on you.

I occasionally sell stuff on eBay, and I dropship from China but I also disclose that my goods are being dropshipped from China, when I do make a sale. I live in Port Melbourne.

I’m Greek-Australian, not Chinese…

CCN
CCN
2 years ago
Reply to  Syb

Wow. That’s not even an attempt at thinly veiled racism. Shame on you.

I occasionally sell stuff on eBay, and I dropship from China but I also disclose that my goods are being dropshipped from China, when I do make a sale. I live in Port Melbourne.

I’m Greek-Australian, not Chinese…

Jim I
Jim I
2 years ago
Reply to  CCN

If you are Greek Aussie then you know all about scams, it’s in your blood. Takes one to know one 😉 jk

Freezies
Freezies
2 years ago
Reply to  Syb

Australians are doing the same thing and only a handful admit it

The Chinese are the ones making the products, yet they’re cheats and liars for selling their own products the same way but cheaper?

Racist idiot.

Keith
Keith
2 years ago

This is a real problem in the camera segment. It’s not just the vagueness about where things are shipped from. The Amazon.AU store is dropping its prices to match offshore grey marketers, leaving locally-supplied retailers with no margin to play with:
https://www.photocounter.com.au/2018/its-amaysim-on-amazon/

Storewall Australia
2 years ago

I am looking at Amazon at the moment and say wait, wait, wait. The article is correct however, you need to be where the customers are going.

Andy
Andy
2 years ago

China sellers have realised prices are higher here because people are happy to pay for faster shipping of local stock. When all the time, it’s the same item you could of bought from China which comes with a 2 week wait, but now you’ve paid the higher mark up for the exact same item under the impression it was local stock with faster shipping.

You can open a dispute with Paypal and ask the seller to provide a local tracking number if you think you’ve been tricked.

These fake China based sellers will usually have China as the location in the middle of their seller page any way, check this first by clicking on their ebay name.

The ultra cheap price and huge feedback score is usually a give away too.

Freezies
Freezies
2 years ago

Australian sellers are buying these same items from China and then charging 5-10 times the price saying AU stock.

Other Aussie sellers are drop shipping from China and it’s okay to say AU stock. but when China does the same, everyone complains.

You are literally paying Australian middlemen a lot more for the exact same item, then complain when the Chinese factories that actually manufacture them, sell them via their sellers on ebay in the same manner but cheaper.

Everyone wants to make money off Chinas back then complain and blame them for everything.

1) Say AU stock
2) Dropship from China,
3) Profit from ignorance and racsim.
4) Complain about the Chinese.

Grow up, idiots.

Jim I
Jim I
2 years ago

Forward deployed inventory pools haha…rubbish. You mean post forwarders located in Sydney don’t you. A user asks ‘why doesn’t eBay DO something about this?’ Because they are after FEES, and if you take out Chinese sellers then they lose on fees. So they let it continue. Of course they know, it’s all about the money!