EBay announces Authenticate. Facebook, are you listening?

31 Jan 2017

Fake items abound online and every e-commerce and classified site that facilitates peer-to-peer transactions has had to grapple with ensuring buyers are receiving legitimate goods. Often times, sellers don’t even know when they’re peddling a fake.

As Facebook rolls out its new Marketplace app, it will increasingly have to address what Amazon, Alibaba and EBay have already experienced.

Here’s a tip to our friends at Facebook: consider adopting a program similar to the one EBay just announced. It’s called “EBay Authenticate” and consists of a professional network

From EBay Authenticate with thanks

of on-call human (not algorithmic) middlemen, who do what the program suggests: they review items to make sure they’re the real deal.

Go here for EBay’s explanation.

Once a buyer purchases an item, the seller will send it to an approved authenticator, who will inspect the item. If it’s legit, the middleman will mail it on to the buyer. If not, the transaction will be cancelled.

There will be a fee, of course, although EBay’s head of consumer selling Laura Chambers said the amount hasn’t been set yet. It will be inexpensive enough for sellers to use regularly, she added.

To make that fee worthwhile, EBay will allow sellers to post a banner on a listing that tells prospective buyers that the item will be verified before delivery. This can help sellers stand out in the already crowded EBay marketplace, and it should help consumers feel more comfortable, especially when buying big ticket items (think Rolex watches, and Louis Vuitton handbags), of which there are already plenty on the site.

Chambers also pointed out that joining the Authenticate program could help new sellers build their reputation on the site, prior to amassing positive ratings.

We assume that the authentication service will mostly be a benefit to sellers, although if a seller doesn’t choose to opt-in to use EBay Authenticate, a buyer can opt-in and pay. EBay says on its website that if a buyer receives an item following inspection and it’s found to be inauthentic, EBay will refund the buyer two times the cost of the original purchase price.

EBay will begin testing Authenticate later in 2017, and will start with specific segments in the fashion category (such as the aforementioned handbags). The program will then expand to other high-end products, with a full launch anticipated in time for the holiday shopping season.

As for Facebook: Marketplace – as an outgrowth of its popular Buy & Sell groups – doesn’t have an obvious nor immediate appeal as a place for expensive items. But neither did EBay at first.

As Marketplace grows and evolves, it will surely face the fake demon sooner or later. And while Facebook has traditionally preferred to employ software solutions, we’re liking this new EBay program, that has real people putting their expertise to work for a fee.


Brian Blum

Brian Blum covers the U.S., Canada and Israel for Classified Intelligence Report, and contributes to our special reports and research projects. Originally from San Francisco and now based in Jerusalem, he has been with the AIM Group since 2004. He is the president of Blum Interactive Media, specializing in writing and multimedia content development for online, print, video and audio. His clients include newspapers, universities and non-profits. He is currently working on a book about the billion-dollar bankruptcy of a once high-flying Israeli startup.