An example snippet of junk mail I received after I purchased and item from a company via ebay.
I think I’m on a role with these Ebay Annoyances! This one is when you buy something from a company via ebay, and that company then takes it upon themselves to add your e-mail address to their mailing list, and start sending you marketing e-mails (aka junk mail, aka spam).
The problem is, while companies are not supposed to add random people to their e-mailing lists without their permission, it’s actually ‘ok’ for them to add you if you’ve purchased something from them. To be fair, it’s usually easy enough to unsubscribe (there should be an unsubscribe link at the end of each email*).
*only click on a link, or reply to an email to unsubscribe if you are certain you are a legitimate company’s mailing list. If they’re not legitimate then you risk confirming your email address is active and thus receiving more junk in the future.
Here are details from ico.org.uk (The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.):
Electronic mail marketing
The most important thing to remember is that you can only carry out unsolicited electronic marketing if the person you’re targeting has given you their permission.
However, there is an exception to this rule. Known as the ‘soft opt-in’ it applies if the following conditions are met;
where you’ve obtained a person’s details in the course of a sale or negotiations for a sale of a product or service;
where the messages are only marketing similar products or services; and
where the person is given a simple opportunity to refuse marketing when their details are collected, and if they don’t opt out at this point, are given a simple way to do so in future messages.
When you send an electronic marketing message, you must tell the recipient who you are and provide a valid contact address.
I can appreciate that there is no “Wouldn’t you like to join our mailing list?” option when buying from companies via ebay, like there might be when buying directly through the company’s website, and even if there was, I suspect most people opt out if they saw it. But sometimes, because I made my purchase via ebay, I’m not totally aware of which company I bought from, so it’s not always apparent why I suddenly start receiving junk from them.
And it always is junk (just like Google adverts, I don’t appreciate being shown thing that I “might like”. While I’m aware of the subtle effects of marketing campaigns on the subconscious – who doesn’t think of a particular brand of something when I say “toothpaste” or “price comparison website” or “cracked windscreen” – I generally buy what I need to buy, rather than browse through randomly mailed marketing material to see what looks nice. Sadly, marketing campaigns do generally work (or else why would companies bother with them?)
I think it’s bad enough that ebay fill every blank part of their own website with random advertising, without allowing their sellers to send more junk our way. Or do they allow it?
There are two points in their Seller Policy, under the heading “Email that breaches eBay policies”:
Spam (Unsolicited Commercial Email) – eBay’s spam policy applies only to unsolicited commercial messages sent by eBay members.
Offers to Buy or Sell Outside eBay – eBay prohibits email offers to buy or sell listed items outside the eBay online marketplace.
The first clause goes on to explain that it’s not ok to send spam through ebay’s messaging system (which isn’t the problem here), but the second point explains that ebay sellers are not allowed to encourage buyers to make purchases outside of ebay. In the case of my illustration above, links from the advertised products did land me in their ebay store, rather than encouraging me to buy direct.
I do question why sellers even need to know a buyer’s e-mail address. This can be passed on in a number of ways*, but I suspect in this case it’s because payment is made via PayPal – while this system keeps your credit card details safe, it passes on your e-mail address with each transaction. Is this necessary for e-bay purchases when ebay themselves prefer every communication to go through their messaging system (which helps them to deal with disputes)?
*Another way you can reveal your e-mail address to a seller is by replying to a message from them through your e-mail account, instead of using the Reply button in the ebay message.