5 min article

Shill bidding policy

Shill bidding is when someone bids on an item to artificially increase its price, desirability, or search standing.

Shill bidding can happen regardless of whether the bidder knows the seller. However, when someone bidding on an item knows the seller, they might have information about the seller's item that other shoppers aren't aware of. This could create an unfair advantage, or cause another bidder to pay more than they should. We want to maintain a fair marketplace for all our users, and as such, shill bidding is prohibited on eBay. For more details on what constitutes shill bidding, please see our full policy guidelines below.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Can I use Buy It Now to buy items from people I know?

Yes, you can use Buy It Now to purchase an item from a seller you know.

Can my employees bid on my listings?

No, your employees can’t bid on your items, and you’re not allowed to bid on theirs. Sellers with employees should make sure their workers are also aware of this policy.

How do I report shill bidding?

If you think someone's breaking the rules, please report it to us and we’ll look into it. Be sure to provide the member's user ID and the item number.

Read our full policy

Policy overview

Shill bidding is when sellers—or someone they know—place a bid on their item to drive the price up and create an artificial bidding war. Often the people placing bids have certain information about the seller's item that other shoppers aren't aware of. To make sure no one gets an unfair advantage, shill bidding is prohibited on eBay.

People who know the seller – such as family members, roommates, or employees – can't bid on that seller's items, but they can use options like Buy It Now that don't involve bidding. Sellers with employees have to make sure their workers are aware of this policy and what the consequences are for breaking the rules.

If you sell an item using a fixed price format, keep in mind that fixed price purchases can't be used to increase a member's Feedback ratings or search standing on eBay. When this happens, the member may be suspended from using our site. For more details on our guidelines, see our Feedback manipulation policy.

Violations of our policies may result in a range of actions, including:

  • Listing cancellation
  • Limits on account privileges
  • Account suspension
  • Forfeit of eBay fees on canceled listings
  • Loss of PowerSeller status
  • Referral to law enforcement

If you think someone's breaking the rules, please report it to us. Be sure to provide the member's user ID and the item number.

Some examples

Here are just a few examples of shill bidding that aren’t allowed on eBay:

  • Jean runs a very successful business auctioning items on eBay. Ben, one of her employees, wants to buy some of her products and decides to bid on them. But because he works at her company, he has access to information that wouldn't be available to other eBay shoppers, giving him an unfair advantage.
  • John is selling his computer on eBay. During the auction his girlfriend, Jane, bids on the computer even though she doesn't intend to buy it. (They'd like to increase the item's price and make it seem more desirable.) Another person, Dan, whose bid is $5 higher than Jane’s ends up winning the auction, but he paid a higher price than he should have since Jane placed the phony bid.
  • Sally is selling her car on eBay. During the auction, she gets worried that her car might sell for less than the amount she's hoping to get. To make sure that no bidder can win her car for less than what she has in mind, she uses another eBay account to place bids on her own car, increasing the volume of bidding and raising the price to a level she thinks is fair.
  • Bob is a high-volume seller on eBay and wants to be sure that he never sells at a loss. Rather than use the reserve price feature to set his minimum prices, he has someone place bids on his auctions, setting a hidden reserve price.

Additional Information

In addition to this policy, the User Agreement covers that shill bidding isn't allowed on eBay. Shill bidding is also illegal in many places around the world and carries severe penalties. Before selling items on eBay, please keep the following guidelines in mind:

Seller rules

  • Although a seller is allowed to have more than one eBay account, there can't be any interaction between the accounts, especially involving bids or Feedback. Your information also has to be accurate and consistent.
  • Sellers can't bid on their own listings.
  • Friends and people you know who'd like to buy your items may do so as long as they use a fixed price option like Buy It Now. Bidding on your item for any other reason isn't permitted.
  • If you bid on some of your own auctions, but you didn't know this was shill bidding, you're still responsible. Please understand that when you signed up with us, you agreed to follow the guidelines in the User Agreement and in all our policies.
  • If your accounts were suspended for shill bidding because someone you know used them to list items, and then bid on those items, you're still responsible. Your accounts can't be reinstated before completion of the suspension period. As a reminder, you need to keep your account information and password secure because you're ultimately responsible for anything that happens with your account. The User Agreement says that anyone under the age of 18 isn't allowed to use eBay unless they're supervised by the adult or guardian who owns the account.

Bid history and bidder search

The Bid History page provides a view of bids and retractions that take place while a listing is active. Bidding patterns that show no advantage to the bidder but significantly increase the item's price may suggest shill bidding. Other questionable patterns include multiple bids in short, deliberate intervals, or bidding several times in small amounts even when other bids haven't been placed on an item.

To keep certain info private, we limit how the bid history information is displayed. When the highest bid, reserve, or Buy It Now price reaches or exceeds a certain level, members can't view or search for member-specific information, such as user IDs, on the Bid History page. Though the Bidding Details page has information on bidders, each bidder is assigned an anonymous name (x***y, for example). So only the seller can see a bidder's user ID.

Regardless of the current high bid, when a reserve or Buy It Now price is set at a certain level, user IDs will appear as anonymous names through the duration of the auction, even if the seller lowers the price. For more details on how the bidding process works, see our bidding overview.

Note: eBay determines when user IDs are no longer viewable based on the price or bid amount, and this varies by country.

Ending listings early

You can end a listing early unless there's already a bid that exceeds your reserve price and your listing is within 12 hours of its end time. If you meet the requirements for ending your listing early, be sure to cancel all bids before you end it. If you don't, you'll be required to sell the item to the high bidder when the listing closes.

Trading Assistants

We recommend these guidelines for trading assistants. First, include language in your contract that:

  • prohibits shill bidding and references this eBay policy on shill bidding
  • specifies you'd report shill bidding activities to us
  • specifies you'd help law enforcement with their investigations on shill bidding

Second, if you're aware of shill bidding activities on eBay, you should:

  • notify the people involved and let them know they're violating policies
  • cancel all relevant bids
  • report it to us and provide the user ID and item number

Report shill bidding

We thoroughly investigate every report we receive. Sometimes, though, what appears to be shill bidding may actually be a legitimate transaction. If there's evidence of shill bidding, we take action, ranging from listing cancellation to referral to law enforcement. Our User Privacy Notice prevents us from disclosing the details of our investigation to other members, including the person who reported the issue.

Investigating shill bidding

Our policy against shill bidding applies to all eBay members, regardless of their membership status, and we base our actions on the severity of the violation. To protect the marketplace, we can't talk about how we detect shill bidding or our investigative methods. We also can't disclose certain kinds of evidence if we think that doing so would give someone ideas on how to circumvent the rules.

Suspending sellers

We understand that some members may not know that shill bidding is wrong. So we're open to giving them a second chance, and to ensure they fully understand the seriousness of the violation, we may issue a temporary account suspension or any other action that's necessary. Keep in mind, though, that sellers may be suspended from using eBay permanently, even if it's the first time they violate our shill bidding policy.

Why does eBay have this policy?

For a safe and reliable shopping experience, we try hard not to have shill bidding on eBay. This policy is in place to avoid those activities and to be clear on what can happen when people break the rules. And remember, shill bidding is also illegal in many places around the world.

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