Fee increase requires top-level eBay response

SAN JOSE: Ebay is bringing top executives to the front lines of a PR effort to calm angry users threatening to boycott the site.

SAN JOSE: Ebay is bringing top executives to the front lines of a PR effort to calm angry users threatening to boycott the site.

The online auction site recently increased sellers' fees, something it has done regularly over the years, explained Hani Durzy, senior manager of corporate communications.

"The community reacted the way it always reacts," said Durzy. "This became a communications challenge, because there was a tremendous amount of misperception about the fee changes."

Durzy admits the company might not have done the best job explaining the fee increases. But eBay took the extra step this year of bringing in North America President William Cobb to speak with members.

Cobb has personally answered sellers' angry posts on eBay's general announcement board and hosted an online town hall.

Cobb also gave out his e-mail address, inviting the community to write to him with their concerns - which they have done so by the thousands, said Durzy. The communications team is working with Cobb to make sure every letter is answered personally.

In addition to answering e-mails, the PR team will continue to communicate with sellers through online announcement boards and daily calls with groups of sellers, part of eBay's normal seller-communications efforts.

An article on TheStreet.com pointed out that sellers' threats to boycott were "proving hollow."

"This is not the first time we've heard calls for a boycott," added Durzy. "But if there is a boycott, we've seen no impact."

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