Will Opting Out Of eBay Arbitration Clause Get My Account Deleted?

For weeks, we’ve been reminding eBay customers that they have until Nov. 9 to opt out of a new forced arbitration clause in the website’s user agreement that takes away consumers’ right to band together in a class-action suit. We’ve also been hearing concern from people that their accounts will be closed by eBay if they choose to opt out.

The fear is that, by not agreeing to the new clause and by calling yourself out as a troublemaker, eBay will no longer want you as a customer.

So we went straight to the source to see what’s what. A rep for eBay tells Consumerist (we’ve bolded the important part) —

Consistent with the practices of many of the country’s leading consumer, technology and internet companies, eBay Inc. added an arbitration provision. This dispute resolution procedure encourages swift and reasonable resolution as opposed to litigation, which can be protracted, expensive and often dissatisfying to customers. We believe swift and reasonable resolution processes are in the best interests of our customers and our company. Users who do not prefer this approach have the ability to opt out of the arbitration provision and keep their account active.

If eBay wanted to give you an “agree or else” ultimatum, it could do what just about every single company on this list does and simply force you to agree or have your account deactivated.

There are also concerns that eBay will retaliate against the sellers who opt out by hiding or somehow limiting those sellers’ on-sale items in search results.

“No negative action will be taken against any user who opts out,” the eBay rep tells Consumerist via e-mail.

We’re not lawyers, but it seems counter-intuitive to us that eBay would do something that would negatively impact a group of people who reserved their right to file a class action against the company.

And though the arbitration clause has gotten a lot of press, we know that only a small fraction of eBay users will actually take the time to opt out. It would likely take more effort to single out and retaliate against the people that opt out than it could possibly be worth.

For those interested in opting out of the arbitration clause, here is a template [PDF and Word] for the letter you must sent to eBay by Nov. 9.

While we’re on the topic, eBay subsidiary PayPal also has a deadline approaching to opt out of its arbitration clause. Click here for more info on opting out.