Feeds

Protect online retail, says eBay

Calls to regulate 'restrictive' e-commerce

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

eBay is undertaking a fully-fledged media campaign in Australia, securing an interview with the prestigious ABC Lateline Business programme. The online auctioneer-and-budding-mall has used the platform – and an extraordinarily soft interview – to call for Australia’s competition regulator to intervene in online retail in Australia.

eBay VP Deborah Sharkey told Lateline that it's critical for online retailers to work with government and for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to protect the future growth of the e-commerce sector.

Lateline's Ticky Fullerton offered eBay VP Deborah Sharkey a full toss with Dorothy Dix questions about whether manufacturers and retailers have a "cozy relationship" that stops some products appearing online. Sharkey responded with a raft of figures from eBay's Online Business Index.

Fullerton plucked out one aggregate for Sharkey, that "78 per cent of those surveyed said they had trouble with manufacturers and suppliers who tried to stop the sale of their products online".

Actually, this wasn't quite accurate, even from the survey data: the 78 per cent figure is a roll-up of all respondents' complaints against manufacturers or suppliers, including:

35 per cent of retailers who claimed manufacturers or suppliers had tried to prevent online product sales; 25 per cent who said they were "required" to sell at or around a recommended retail price; and 22 per cent of sellers who "suspected" that their problems with suppliers happened because suppliers didn't like them selling products online.

Perhaps the issue is more complex. Let's look again: 25 per cent of sellers said manufacturers/suppliers "occasionally" tried to restrict online sales, while 10 per cent of sellers said this took place "frequently".

This only tells the story from the retailer's point of view. It doesn’t reveal the number of manufacturers involved. That 10 per cent of retailers experiencing frequent problems may be dealing with a small number of very popular suppliers – the data doesn't reveal this.

Questions of price-fixing are far more serious. Resale price maintenance is illegal in Australia, and the ACCC has a steady stream of minor actions against companies that can't resist trying to prevent retail discounting.

However, rather than being a serious, endemic problem, it's mostly an occasional problem (19 per cent of sellers). Only 6 per cent of sellers reported encountering resale price maintenance frequently.

So when the data is unpicked, what do we find? Retailers report problems with suppliers (which is hardly unique to internet sales), an unknown number of suppliers tries to restrict online sales (the simplest technique would be, I suppose, not to enter wholesale agreements with Internet retailers – I don’t know if this is illegal), and another unknown number of suppliers tries to fix prices (which is clearly illegal in Australia).

Without hard numbers – particularly the number of suppliers involved in restrictive trade practices – it's impossible to assess whether or not eBay is creating a storm in a teacup, but that’s not how eBay sees it. From the programme transcript:

"It is absolutely critical that industry leaders partner with government, with retail players and the ACCC to ensure that continued e-commerce growth and to prevent against restricted trade practices online,” Sharkey said.

Without any detail of how prevalent illegal practices are among suppliers, it's impossible to assess how much action is needed – and, of course, if a retailer is suffering resale price maintenance, there's no need for any new mechanisms. Such problems are what the ACCC is for. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
DVLA website GOES TITSUP on day paper car tax discs retire
Welcome to GOV.UK - digital by de ... FAULT
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.