5 min article

Shill Bidding

Shill Bidding is bidding that artificially increases an item’s price or apparent desirability, or bidding by individuals with a level of access to the seller’s item information not available to the general Community. Shill bidding is prohibited on eBay.

Because family members, roommates and employees of sellers have a level of access to item information which is not available to the general Community, they are not permitted to bid on items offered by the seller, even if their sole intent is to purchase the item. Family members, roommates or employees may purchase items from a seller without violating this policy simply by using purchase options, such as Buy It Now, which do not involve bidding.

eBay strongly encourages sellers with employees to ensure that their employees are aware of this policy and the possible consequences of violation. Violations of this policy may result in a range of actions, including:

  • Listing cancellation
  • Limits on account privileges
  • Account suspension
  • Forfeit of eBay fees on cancelled listings
  • Referral to Law Enforcement

If you believe that another member is artificially raising the price or desirability of an item by shill bidding please report it to eBay. Please be sure to provide the user IDs and the item numbers in question.

Some Examples

Below are several examples in which shill bidding has taken place. Shill Bidding can take place in other situations than those illustrated here. Remember, the key issues determining shill bidding are manipulation of price or desirability, or bidding by individuals with a level of access to the seller’s item information not available to the general Community.

  • Jean operates a very successful business auctioning items on eBay. Ben, an employee of Jean's, wants to purchase several of the items offered by Jean and places bids on those items. Even though Ben really wants to buy the items, his special access to information not available to the general Community creates an inherent, unfair advantage.
  • John is selling his extra MP3 player on eBay. During the auction, John’s girlfriend, Jane, places a bid on the MP3 player even though she does not intend to buy the MP3 player. The MP3 player is won by a third person, Matthew, whose bid is $5 higher than Jane’s.
  • Siti is selling her car on eBay. During the auction, Siti becomes worried that her car might sell for less than the amount she is hoping to receive. To ensure that no bidder can win her car for less than the price she has in mind, Siti uses another eBay account to place bids on her own car, increasing the volume of bidding and raising the price to the level she feels is "fair".
  • Han Wei is a high-volume seller on eBay, who wants to be sure that he never sells at a loss. Rather than use eBay’s Reserve Price feature to set his minimum sale prices, Han Wei has an associate place bids on his auctions... in effect, setting a "hidden" reserve price.

Additional Information

Shill bids manipulate auctions or involve bidding by individuals with a level of access to the seller’s item information not available to the general Community. They are placed or caused to be placed by the seller or bidders associated with the seller. Shill bidding is forbidden under the terms of the eBay User Agreement. To review your eBay User Agreement – click here. Shill bidding is also illegal in many places throughout the world, with severe penalties.

Reporting shill bidding: Shill bidding reports are investigated thoroughly. Sometimes, what appears to be shill bidding may actually be legitimate bidding activity. If eBay concludes that shill bidding has taken place, a wide range of actions may occur – from a warning and education about this policy, to account suspension and even referral to law enforcement. eBay’s policy with regard to member privacy prevents us from disclosing to you any details or results of an investigation.

Suspending sellers: A seller may be suspended permanently the first time shill bidding is discovered. However, eBay recognises that some members might not understand that shill bidding is wrong. We believe in educating those members and providing them with a second chance. At times, that education may be reinforced by a temporary suspension and other consequences.

Seller rules:

  • A seller is allowed to have more than one registered eBay account. However, there must never be any interaction between the accounts in the areas of bidding or feedback, and all user information must be accurate and consistent.
  • Sellers cannot bid on their own listings.
  • Friends and people you know who are truly interested in purchasing items you have listed may do so, provided they use fixed price purchasing options like Buy It Now. Bidding on your item for any other reason is forbidden.
  • If you bid on some of your own auctions, but you did not know this was shill bidding, you are still responsible. Under the eBay User Agreement – to which you agreed when you registered to join eBay – you are responsible for understanding and complying with eBay policies.
  • If your accounts were suspended for shill bidding because your child used your account to list items and then bid on those items, you are still responsible. These accounts may not be reinstated before completion of the suspension period. Individuals are responsible for maintaining the security of their account password and for all eBay account activity carried out under their identity. Furthermore, it is a violation of eBay’s User Agreement for a person under the age of 18 to use eBay unless the child is under the direct supervision of the adult or guardian who owns the account.

Ending listings early: You may end a listing early unless 1) there is a bid which exceeds your reserve price, and 2) it is within 12 hours of online auction end. When you want to end your listing because you’ve changed your mind about selling an item, be sure to cancel all bids before you end it. If you don’t cancel all bids before ending your listing, you will be required to sell the item to the high bidder when the listing closes.

Bid History and Bidding Details: The Bid History and Bidding Details pages provide a view of the bidding and retractions that take place while the listing is active. The Bidding Details page provides additional information to help you recognise potential shill bidding and report it to eBay. For example, you can view the percentage of bids that a specific bidder has placed on items from the same seller, and how many bids this bidder placed on other seller’s items.

Bidding patterns that show no advantage to the bidder but significantly increase the bidding price of the listing may suggest shill bidding. Questionable patterns include multiple bids by a bidder in short, deliberate intervals, bidding several times in small amounts even when other bids have not been placed on the item, or only bidding on items from one seller.

To keep eBay a safe place for buyers and sellers, eBay limits how bid history information is displayed. When the price or highest bid on an item reaches or exceeds a certain level, members cannot view or search for member-specific information, such as user IDs, on the Bid History page. The Bidding Details page contains detailed information on bidders; however, all bidders are assigned anonymous names, such as Bidder 1. Only the seller can see a bidder’s user ID.

Regardless of the current high bid, when a reserve or Buy It Now price is initially set at a certain level, user IDs will appear as anonymous names throughout the duration of the auction listing, even if the seller lowers the price.

Note: The price or bid amount at which user IDs are no longer viewable is determined by eBay and varies by country.

Trading Assistants: eBay recommends that, as a Trading Assistant, you do several things. First, include language in your Contract that:

  • prohibits this type of activity and references eBay’s policy on shill bidding
  • states that you would report such activity to eBay if discovered
  • states that you would cooperate with Law Enforcement in prosecution of such activity

Second, if you do become aware of such activity, you should:

  • notify the individual who is shill bidding that they are in violation of eBay policy
  • cancel all relevant bids
  • proactively report the shill bidding ID and relevant auction information to eBay

Investigating shill bidding: eBay’s policy against shill bidding applies equally to all eBay members. eBay’s shill bidding policy enforcement and violation consequences focus on the nature of the offense, not the status of the offender. eBay will apply its consequence guidelines impartially, without regard to whether the member is a long-established and large-scale seller or a new member. In order to protect the marketplace effectively, eBay refrains from any discussion of detection and investigation methods. Discussion of specific methods can provide sellers trying to shill bid intentionally with information that can then be used in avoiding detection. Consequently, eBay will not disclose specific methods or types of evidence unless they are obvious.


Why does eBay have this policy?

Shill bidding undermines trust in the marketplace since prices are being artificially manipulated. Furthermore, it is illegal in many locations throughout the world. To ensure that buyers’ and sellers’ trust in eBay’s marketplace is appropriately placed, shill bidding is not permitted.

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