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In a move that’s annoying buyers, infuriating sellers, but delighting manufacturers and industry professionals, eBay is cracking down on the sale of coupons. In the first major revision of its coupon policy in several years, eBay is severely restricting the number of coupons that sellers can offer, and banning the sale of free-product (including “buy one get one free”) coupons altogether.

Beginning on September 1st, eBay’s new coupon policy will allow users to sell only 25 coupons, not exceeding a combined value of $100, per month. That’s a huge change from the current policy, which allows for the sale of 100 total coupons, 20 identical coupons, or 5 coupon inserts per auction. In addition, users can no longer sell coupons for “free” products – and that includes “coupons where the coupon holder buys a quantity of items at one price, and receives additional items for free” – which would appear to cover “buy one get one free” coupons. That replaces the old policy, which allows the sale of up to 2 free-product coupons per listing.

For years, industry advocates have been pushing for the outright ban on coupon sales. So why the sort-of ban, and why now? eBay isn’t saying, specifically. “This policy reflects our commitment to keeping eBay a safe and trusted marketplace,” eBay spokesperson Kari Ramirez offered in a statement to Coupons in the News, “and our support for manufacturers and retailers’ efforts to ensure consumer compliance with coupon redemption rules.” Ramirez would not elaborate on whether eBay’s decision was made in conjunction with industry groups, under pressure (legal or otherwise) from manufacturers, or completely on its own accord.

Getting subpoenaed by one manufacturer certainly must have gotten eBay’s attention. The snack maker Link Snacks recently got a judge to compel eBay to provide the names of users who were selling fake coupons that offered a free package of Jack Link’s beef jerky (read: “Dozens of eBay Sellers Targeted, as Counterfeit Coupon Case Goes Cold”). Some of those fraudulent coupons got their moment in the spotlight during one shopper’s Extreme Couponing spree on TLC.

It would be charitable to suggest that eBay’s decision was made for its users’ own good – but, intended or otherwise, the move to ban the sale of free product coupons will certainly save many eBay sellers from themselves. People tend not to make counterfeit coupons for “50 cents off 2″ products – they make them for high-value, free items. So a good number of the free product coupons available on eBay are counterfeit. And using – and selling – counterfeit coupons could land people in serious trouble. Link Snacks is seeking up to $2 million in damages per fraudulent coupon sold on eBay. If it can’t find the source of the counterfeits, it could choose to go after the sellers themselves. One seller told the company he had purchased 400 Jack Link’s coupons to resell on eBay. 400 coupons, at $2 million apiece – you do the math.

The restriction on the number of coupons that a seller can offer appears to be aimed more at appeasing manufacturers, who have not been thrilled about the idea of individual consumers buying and redeeming fistfuls of their coupons. The policy change won’t eliminate the practice of coupon selling, but it will certainly change it. No longer will people be able to make a good living selling coupons, 20 at a time, over and over and over again. If a user can sell only 25 per month, that would merely allow the casual eBay seller to make a few bucks off of their leftovers.

The “20 coupons at a time” rule was instituted in late 2010, and sellers at the time complained that eBay was on the brink of eliminating coupon sales altogether. Industry professionals complained that eBay wasn’t doing enough to stop the practice, by merely chipping away at it. Turn back the clock a decade, though, and it was like the Wild West on eBay, where anything went. Only in 2004 did eBay ban the sale of expired coupons, or scanned copies of coupons – which boggles the mind of today’s couponer, to think that was actually ever allowed in the first place.

eBay’s move back then came after the former “Yahoo! Auctions” site banned the sale of coupons altogether, something eBay was not willing to do. Industry professionals at the time expressed a mix of satisfaction and disappointment. “Ideally, we would have liked for coupon auctions to be taken off totally, based on the argument that coupons are non-transferable intellectual property owned by the manufacturer,” said Karin Kroft, the senior director of industry affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers of America. “But we understand eBay’s position.”

Will the coupon industry be as understanding of eBay’s position today, regarding its newest coupon-sale restrictions? Once again, they fall short of an outright ban. And now, as before, eBay’s terms include the oft-ignored requirement that “sellers can’t claim that the price of the coupon is based on the value of the labor involved in clipping the coupons instead of the coupons themselves. Under eBay rules, the coupons themselves are the items being sold.” The policy also still notes that “the terms on some coupons state that selling them is restricted or not allowed.”

But quietly missing from eBay’s new policy is the line “we don’t monitor the site for possible violations, and we usually don’t remove listings based on third-party contracts.” A mere oversight, or a sign that eBay is serious this time about cracking down?

What remains to be seen, is whether this will represent a sea change in the business of buying and selling coupons, or if those who bought and sold coupons on eBay will simply do their business elsewhere. If you want to buy more than 25 coupons at a time, you’ll be able to find someone, somewhere, who’s willing to sell. Just not on eBay anymore.

(Be sure to read this update: “eBay’s New Coupon Policy Begins – And Nothing Changes”)


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23 Comments

  1. I clipped the coupon and gave it to my mom on the day we went shopping together at the grocery store. We didn’t “sell” the coupon. How the hell can that be considered VOID?

    • Ever notice that some companies say that they get to limit quantities of whatever they have on sale. You sure as hell do not tell them what they can or cannot do. Plus if they want to change the rules in midstream, you better remember that you do not have any rights except to either spend your money there or not to.

      Don’t like my explanation on why the hell is it considered void, good as I do not give a rat’s behind if you do or don’t. The only rights afforded to you when you walk in the store are the ones that are in the constitution of the US and the last time I looked there was nothing about coupons.

  2. Johnnycomelately says:

    LOL Ebay not saying why. Well then let me tell you why. You see Flea-Bay oh I mean ebay allowed 1000’s of bogus accounts to sell free fake coupons from the likes of Iams dog food up to 40 lb bags free. Jack Links free fake Coupons. Don’t forget the free fake Bubba Burgers as seen on Extreme Shoppers.
    ~
    The list goes on and on of other fake free coupons but the point is this they were warned 1000’s of times yet they allowed these fake accounts to sell millions upon millions of dollars of fake coupons that they knew were fake.
    ~
    Not until major lawsuits from huge companies did Flea-Bag oh sorry ebay take this stance only to pretend they knew nothing about all this lol yeah right.
    ~
    Now sellers of legit manufacturers save a $1.00 or two are paying the price as Flea-bag punishes all coupon sellers acting like it’s bad to sell a bundle of legit coupons.
    ~
    This is how gross ebay has become. Sad excuse for a once good site.

  3. Andy - putz2013 says:

    CouponsInTheNews.com, if you want the rest of my emails and all correspondence interaction between eBay and myself. Let me know, as I will will show you that I had no intention of getting eBay to change their coupon policy, however it seemed that I was the one that was constantly getting screwed and something had to be done.

    • Dont worry – Plenty of people posting their ILLEGAL COUPONS (more than 20, multiple listings, etc) under OTHER CATEGORIES – they have ALL Been reported to EBAY in emails and on phone. it is a WASTE OF TIME!!! – they must have FAVORITE SELLERS there or something. THere is NO SENSE making a rule when you do not enforce it and you are PENALIZING the people who abide by the rules. EBAY should be ASHAMED of themselves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Linda September 27, 2013 at 9:37 am. Quite proud. If it punishes the legitimate people that want to utilize a site rampant with illegal activity then so be it and to address Dessie123
        September 1, 2013 at 3:21 pm just because they do not enforce the law does not mean a little person such as you gets to interpret what the law is. Fraud is fraud no matter how it occurs “DESSIE”.

        If the manufacturer believes a coupon may have been sold, the coupon is void, and they do not have to reimburse the store for it. One method of identifying possibly-sold coupons is via the coupon’s condition. The term “gang-cutting” refers to the practice of stacking multiple, like insert pages on top of one another, then cutting through the entire stack at the same time, either with a scissors or with a paper cutter. This is the method most often used to cut individual coupons by resellers. Gang-cut coupons are also often in mint condition, meaning that they haven’t been held or handled enough to indicate that they were hand-cut by consumers.

        Whether you like it or not, or wish to continue arguing “a coupon it’s mine, I can do what I want with it,” the truth is that the manufacturer ultimately holds all of the cards in this particular game. Again, you own the paper it’s on — not the actual exchange of money that it represents. Even if your store accepts coupons that you purchased, which were gang-cut by a reseller, the manufacturer may refuse to reimburse your store. Then, your store is forced to take a financial loss. If you wouldn’t shoplift from your store, you shouldn’t pass coupons that they will not be reimbursed for either. Some stores have added clauses to their coupon policies that they will not accept any coupons that appear to be gang-cut either, because again — as far as the manufacturer is concerned, those coupons are void.

        • and laaaaaaastly Linda. It is eBays site if you do not like their rules no one is forcing you to go there and do business.

        • “One method of identifying possibly-sold coupons is via the coupon’s condition. The term “gang-cutting” refers to the practice of stacking multiple, like insert pages on top of one another, then cutting through the entire stack at the same time, either with a scissors or with a paper cutter. This is the method most often used to cut individual coupons by resellers. Gang-cut coupons are also often in mint condition, meaning that they haven’t been held or handled enough to indicate that they were hand-cut by consumers.”

          The above made me laugh.
          Clearinghouses looking for matched edges on the coupons? Crumbled, stained coupons with barely readable barcodes are more legit then clean ones?
          Take your scissors, trim some edges, give them to your toddler to play with for a few minutes – voila, gang-cut no more? :))

          Also wanted to add, that to legally obtain free insert coupons we have to pay for the newspaper. Taking out just free inserts considered theft.

  4. Ebay seems to have forgotten where its bread and butter came from. Do “sellers” ring a bell?? Go going eBay, keep on biting the hands that have fed you.

    • So why do the police when they find out that you have any item that is illegally obtained seize it from your twerpy butt and say it was never yours in the first place.

      Right eBay became fiscally responsible and you are crying over spilled milk. No one forces you to use eBay.

  5. Kudos Gayle. You are making an honest living and doing what you can to support your family. Clipping services are helpful to us couponers who have a tight budget and who want/need to save money for their family. Yes, selling coupons is illegal but clipping them for someone who is paying you for your time and postage is not illegal. It’s a shame that some people act like you are running some sort of organized crime scheme.

    • The act of clipping coupons is not illegal, no. BUT…as stated on most coupons, they are VOID once they are transfered or sold. So, once you drop them in the mail you are committing mail fraud by using the postal service to send VOID items that by the contact on the coupons makes them UNUSABLE. You are therefore selling something that cannot be used while claiming they can be used.
      It is the terms on the coupons that have legal standing, and once voided, that’s it, they are void and unusable…if you use them, you are committing fraud.

      • That sounds really good, Brian. But unfortunately, it’s all nonsense. First off, something can only be illegal if it is against the law. Since when is sending an item that is VOID through USPS committing mail fraud? If I void a check and send it to my employer so they can set up a direct deposit account for my salary, is THAT committing mail fraud? By your definition, I have sent something through the mail that is supposedly voided. What if a transaction is voided and I send the voided receipt through the mail? Can the feds come after me then??? Now, for coupons: There is no law in any state that forbids the sale of coupons. No. So how can it be fraudulent and illegal to sell coupons? Just because it is printed on the coupon does not make it illegal. The language stating that coupons should not be transferred refers to transferring the coupon from one medium to another. By your limited understanding, if I give a coupon I cut out to my mom to use, then that is coupon fraud, correct? I transferred the coupon from one person to another. Now for selling a service, how can it be okay to selling the service of clipping coupons, but as soon as I complete the transaction, then I’m committing fraud? If I break my arm and ask my sister or friend to cut out my coupons, is that fraudulent? apparently so according to you! Please don’t go making up laws and rules with no understanding of how laws are made! Mail fraud! get real!

        • Well played Dessie123! I couldn’t have explained that any clearer – the point you made about cutting out a coupon and giving it to your mom is a perfect example. Nice job!

        • Get real. You don’t like the rules and that is toooooooooo bad as you do not get to enforce the rules that these manufacturers put in writing on these coupons. No one is forcing you to violate their rules but every time you open your big mouth as I replied to you twice it only goes to show that your mentality is that the stores owe you something when you walk in the door other than what is afforded in the constitution of the USA.

          Couponing is not in the Bill Of Rights>

        • Get real. You don’t like the rules and that is toooooooooo bad as you do not get to enforce the rules that these manufacturers put in writing on these coupons. No one is forcing you to violate their rules but every time you open your big mouth as I replied to you twice it only goes to show that your mentality is that the stores owe you something when you walk in the door other than what is afforded in the constitution of the USA.

          Couponing is not in the Bill Of Rights.

  6. Gayle — sorry for your personal issues but I wanted to point out that virtually all manufacturers have a policy against the sale of their coupons. The coupons are void instantly upon selling them. Net, you have been running an illicit business and my hope is that you use this eBay change as an opportunity to get into a more honest profession.

    • gayle lancaster says:

      wow.

    • THANK YOU for your honesty! I’m sick of these people being allowed to skirt the law and all ethics. I don’t care how many people have earned their stockpile by buying the illegal coupons… I’m glad EBay is cracking down.

      There are other ways to earn a living Gayle. Good luck.

      • i really don’t think that many people have used illegal coupons. and on top of that, it sound like it is a select group of seller that are ruining it.

        and to the people who say it is illegal to buy coupons, yes it is, but it’s not illegal to compensate the person for their time for clipping them.

  7. It’s sad that this will hurt so many honest business people on Ebay. I have to admit it is kind of scary to order coupons off there anymore. I only order ones I know for sure were in the Sunday inserts and I only order when the only clipping store I use is out of stock. I use West Coast Clipping. They are the only one out there with an easy to use website. They actually give you a number where you can text them with questions and they always answer. I also like the fact they tell you exactly when they are putting up the new coupons so I can make sure I am on my computer, order and be done for the weekend. The other sties you have no idea, you just have to stalk them, and then you miss it if you step away from your computer. West Coast Clipping lets me get my coupons and have a life. They ship fast too. I live in SC and I always get my coupons within a couple of days. If I put my order in the morning they ship it that day….I think we will see a lot of new sites popping up…some will be good and honest others not so much…

  8. gayle lancaster says:

    I have been selling my clipping services on ebay for over the last 2.5 years. I know that I have helped a ton of people build their stock piles for pennies on the dollar.. I’m saddened to see that they have changed their coupon listing policies. I have been working on a site of my own at http://www.oregoncouponclipper.com that has a list of my current coupon inventory it will update when new coupon inserts arrive. Contact with buyers will be one on one. and all orders will ship same day.. I have to do something with these new changes to Ebay I will no longer be able to support my family and stay at home with my special needs daughter… So if you know of anyone that will need the extra coupons and cant find them online, I would love to help them out…

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