Buyer on eBay gets sued by seller for leaving negative feedback regarding $1.44 postage fee

ebay

Be careful when you leave negative feedback on an eBay seller — it can get you sued.

Amy Nicholls, who purchased a microscope light from Med Express for $175, paid $12 for shipping. But then she found out that she also had to pay an extra $1.44 in postage due. This inconvenience led Nicholls to leave negative feedback on Med Express’s eBay.

Like many other eBay sellers, Med Express really values their rating and according to Ars Technica, they’ve only had one negative review compared to 142 positive reviews in the past six months. So the company asked her to remove the negative feedback, but Nicholls refused despite the company’s offer to refund $1.44 because because her complaint was made towards the inconvenience, not the amount that she had to pay. Which makes sense, if you think about it.

Things quickly escalated when Med Express decided to take action to remove the feedabck — by suing Amy Nicholls for the negative review she left on eBay.

Paul Levy of the Public Citizen’s litigation group, who is assisting Nicholls, wrote a letter addressed to James Amodio, who is representing Med Express in the lawsuit. In it, he describes the issue further:

The point she made in her message to you was that the problem wasn’t the money but the hassle… That opinion might be right, or it might be wrong, but harboring it and expressing it is not a tort. And it is certainly no reason to seek damages, attorney fees, and an injunction. Consumers might well take this sort of bullying into account when they are thinking about whether to do business with Med Express.

For all we know, the reason your client has so little negative feedback might be that it bullies critics by filing or threatening to file frivolous lawsuits every time negative feedback appears, thus inflating its seller rating.

Sounds like Mr. Levy’s got a point here. But on the other hand, there is the fact that negative feedback can hurt Med Express’ business.

What do you think of this issue? Discuss in the comments below!

[via Ars Technica, image via Ryan Fanshaw]

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26 comments

  1. davidroper

    [@chris]
    Chris, I hear you and I have always tried to contact seller first, Recently I had a horse’s ass on eBay that I had to deal with so I caved in (ie got tired of explaining my side) and gave him a 5 star rating and glowing comments. Through with it. My time is more valuable.

    What does this do? It makes eBay’s rating system and “always” positive comments section useless for another customer like you because you (plural you) don’t know what really went on. So who lost in this phoney rating system? Not the seller. It’s the buyer, and the potential future buyer who gets to read, judge to buy, and believe the 5 star ratings. Whoosh… Did you feel that cold air come into the room just then? Spooky.

    I would rather hear about a 2 star rater’s comments and then say “posh” to him – than see a 5 star rating and live in “la la land” thinking the product is good to buy with no problems to encounter.

    The eBay system has become corrupted by these sellers. It started out to be pretty good, but the almighty dollar got in the way. P.S. And I am a capitalist 100%. I like it when the dollar talks and BS walks.

    Just sayin’

  2. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    The following FML pretty much sums up how overly litigious our (American) society has become:

    >>Today, I was again turned down by a potential host family on a student exchange site. Their reasoning was basically that since I’m American, I might do something to endanger my health, get hurt, and then sue them over my own stupidity. FML

  3. Tom

    I’d bet Med Express is dead soon. Their ill advised skirmish over $1.44 will bring more ill will upon their business than Amy’s review could ever have I achieved.

    I for one, would never do business with Med Express or advise anyone else to do so. #fools

  4. davidroper

    MedExpress is the real loser. I’ll never even THINK of buying anything from them. I feel like send then a check for $1.54 so they can figure out what to do with the dime refund to me. LOL

  5. DrTszap

    [@DrTszap]

    BTW, given Med Express’s apparent history of frivolous litigation over accurate feedback (including *neutral* feedback stating “order retracted” when they sold an item that was no longer available) I’m inclined to suspect the “error” in the shipping cost was *not* a mistake…

  6. DrTszap

    [@Sam Born]

    Actually, ebay caught on to the padding quite a while ago, and started charging the fees on price+shipping, so low price+padded shipping is usually just a ‘trick’ to make it appear to be a bargain…

    It is not clear from the article whether the buyer contacted the seller before leaving negative feedback so I can’t comment on blame other than to say that it sounds like an error in calculating postage rates… I have had ebay’s postage calculator underestimate postage (it normally estimates full retail, while ebay shipping actually is billed at the discounted commercial rate) *and* had USPS ream the buyer for postage due on Flat-Rate Priority Mail packages even though package and label both were clearly marked “Flat-Rate” (could be that USPS charged the higher measured-service rate on a flat-rate package, or maybe Med-Express under paid the postage by error or intent…)

  7. DCTECHGUY

    eBay charges THE SAME FEES for listed shipping as for the item itself, this change was implemented some time ago and I feel was directed towards dishonest sellers who tried to avoid fees through inflated shipping.

    This is why you may find many items (especially those 13 ounces and under where postage nationwide for first class shipping is the same) have free shipping as the seller has incorporated that postage amount and fees into the item price.

    I regret that Ashraf and perhaps other readers would never change a negative to a positive, when it is possible that your average seller is human and makes mistakes.

    If your average seller made an honest mistake, and if the buyer shared the experience with the seller before leave a negative, I believe most sellers worthy of great feedback would do whatever was reasonable to make the trade a satisfactory one for the buyer.

  8. Mario

    Only one remark : when the customer bought the product, she knew of all the charges? That is : product + shipping + postage? If yes, she it TOTALLY WRONG and deserves to be sued, if no, THE COMPANY IS WRONG and deserves to be sued. Simply that. In my experience, the customer, most of the time, is WRONG! Absolutelly, completelly no doubt about it. What most companies do is just let it go! The person who invented the term “The customer is always right” was a BAD customer that wanted to gain something from some company.

  9. patagaway

    I can only imagine how much damage they have done to themselves with this action? It would far outweigh any done by a negative feedback comment. They shot themselves in the foot and, you can be sure it will negatively affect their image online and even their profits…all to make a point…foolishness

  10. Rob (Down Under)

    eBay and PayPal combination is brilliant.
    And the glue that keeps it together is the Feedback system.
    I judge who I purchase from, based on the number of sales, combined with their rating
    The sellers will bend over backwards to keep customers happy.
    I have never given any seller negative feedback.
    The customer was petty and vindictive, and I have no sympathy for her.
    Rob
    PS She should look carefully at her actions, under a microscope.

  11. Darcy

    I’m personally of the opinion that you should always give someone a chance to correct a mistake before leaving a bad review or anything of the sort. This article doesn’t say whether she did that or not but the sad fact is many won’t try to correct something unless you threaten or file a complaint. The lawsuit is ridiculous though. One bad complaint in 6 months is nothing to worry about.

  12. Sam Born

    Sellers that price item low and shipping high are trying to avoid Ebays fees from eating into their profits. The fees are charged on the final cost of the goods and not on shipping. This is a reasonable way of keeping costs low for sellers which makes it lower for buyers. The way to consider whether to buy or not is the total cost without worrying about the split.

  13. Peter

    Well, if Med Express thinks it has to ruin its reputation worldwide — let them do so. I never heard of that company but from now on I know it is better to avoid any business with them.

  14. AT

    [@Ashraf] Regardless of how cheap or expensive something is, when you calculate the total cost of the item and shipping, you might not want to press [ADD to CART] button. Simple basic math.

    I’ve seen more than my share of idiots who buy something really cheap (dollar store cheap) and then have it overnighted to them. Now they complain about the price. The seller is to blame for overnight shipping prices. I checked out the item and with the regular shipping prices they were reasonable and quite competitive with retail price of the item. Overnighting the same item from a retail store would cost pretty much the same.

  15. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    [@Seamus McSeamus] I’ve found padding profits is often done for those extremely cheap accessories purchased from Asia (mostly China). You know, the $0.50 screen protector that they sell for $20 over here in the ‘States? Yeah, that. Often the shipping costs more than the item itself, haha…

    But, yeah, good man — don’t sell out xD

  16. Seamus McSeamus

    [@Ashraf]

    I didn’t express myself very well. I would still reflect the fact that I had to pay postage on delivery, but would acknowledge the reimbursement.

    In general, I find that sellers on eBay use postage fees as a means of padding their profit. For example, 8 dollars shipping for something that weighs 4 ounces. I bypass those sellers, unless the deal is too good to ignore even with the shipping factored in.

  17. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    [@Seamus McSeamus] I’m of the opinion that I never remove feedback vis-a-vis a bribe by seller, which is what refunding the money essentially is. I may modify my feedback to say “XXX has done XXX” but I would never change negative to positive unless in extreme circumstances, such as if a company went above and beyond to make up for their shortcoming… enough to justify a positive rating.

    In my mind a positive rating == positive experience buying from that company and using their product. Having to fight for a refund is not a positive experience, even if I get the refund.

  18. Seamus McSeamus

    This is frivolous. Basically, this company is upset that they got negative feedback and the customer wouldn’t alter it, so they’re taking punitive action to get revenge. If I paid 12 bucks in shipping, and still had postage due, I’d leave negative feedback as well. I’d probably remove it if the company reimbursed me, but there is nothing saying you have to.

  19. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    What I want to know is this. Even if Med Express is successful in their lawsuit, which I have my doubts about, can the court force the removal of eBay feedback? Any lawyers wanna provide some input on this?