Summary of inputs for questions for eBay workshop on APS - eBay activities.
Updated to reflect Workshop Answers and Discussion



References and Required Reading:
Overview on Selling Stamps
American Philatelic Society -- Code of Ethics
Questions regarding eBay-APS plans


I have tried to capture what I understood to be the intent of the questions posed in the comments and discussion on David Frick's StampChat board and on the eBay Chat:  Stamps board.  I have grouped the questions into four general categories.

I have now added the answers and the followup questions that arose during the Workshop.  The #''s are the sequence numbers of the postings from the workshop.
Participants: Dan Neary, eBay Stamps Category Manager; Bob Lamb, Executive Director of APS; Lulu, eBay Pinkliner.  I posed the basic numbered questions from our original compilation.  Others added followup questions when they detected open issues.  I have not included some expanded questions which, while useful, were not included in the original list prepared.

Questions regarding the treatment of forgeries, etc.:

1. Are all the items deemed to be forgeries, fakes, facsimiles, and reproductions required to be listed only in the Cinderellas & Fakes category?  If so, shouldn't there be an eBay web page that specifically states the requirement?  The only requirement which might be applied is in 
Paragraph 5.1 of the User Agreement which says, "All listed items must be listed in an appropriate category."  (This requirement is not consistently enforced, and some eBay staff are not familiar with it.) (#14)
A (Neary):  Sellers are required to list stamps in an appropriate category. Given collectors often shop and merchandize Cinderellas & Fakes by region or type, placing these items in other stamp categories is acceptable. An example of an inappropriate category would be if someone wanted to list an automobile in the stamps category.  (#18)

2. If 
forgeries, fakes, facsimiles, and reproductions are restricted to the Cinderella & Fakes category, can a seller also include an additional listing under what would be the correct category if it were a legitimate stamp? (Occasions have been noted where the seller lists an item under both. If it's under the legitimate category, then why bother to have the "Cinderellas & Fakes" requirement at all?) (#16)

3. Marking questions:
    a) When a seller offers 
forgeries, fakes, facsimiles, or reproductions is he required to mark each stamp in multiples (blocks, strips)?  (If not, it defeats the purpose since blocks can be broken up into unmarked singles.)
    b) If a 
forgery, fake, facsimile, or reproduction has gum, and is marked on the back (even with indelible ink), what is to stop someone washing off the gum and the mark with it?
    c) Is there a specific definition of "indelible?"  The APS web page just says, "clearly and indelibly marked as a forgery, fake, facsimile or reproduction." If someone really wanted to remove the stamped mark, even if on ungummed stamps, is it impossible to do? If Sperati could remove the actual stamp design and leave the cancel, then it seems that removing a small "indelible" ink mark would not deter someone with the know how.
    d) How large must the marking be?  What is the required wording on the marking? (#17)

Followup Question (philatarium):  Does proof of that appropriate marking need to be provided in the listing of forgeries? I've seen several listings where there is no scan of the backs of forged stamps, and the term "stamped" or "marked" or something similar has been in quotes, suggesting that the stamps were not really being done, but just stated in the listing that it was being done to comply with the rules. Is a scan of the back of the stamp required, showing the marking of the forgery? (#52)
A (Neary):
All fake stamps are to be marked and listings must include an image of the marking. This is in the stamps "code of conduct" for selling on eBay: http://www.stamps.org/ebay/ebay_code.htm (#91)

Followup Question (D. Benson):  Dan, that does not specify what the wording of the marking is.  (#93)
A (Neary):  The wording of the marking has not really been an issue. We simply require that it is marked for what it is. If you feel that a seller is being deceptive in this regard, send it through and we will take a look at it. (#95)

4. Is any one from the SWC or APS watching known listers of fakes or are they waiting for queries? (#20)
A (Neary):  
The SCW group does proactively review live listings on eBay’s site. Also, questions from the community that require stamp expertise are forwarded to the SCW for review. Of course this does not include any information on the community member that sent the claim into eBay. (#35 This answer was repeated as #76)

5. There are still some items being listed as forgeries being allowed without being handstamped.  Is this because they have not yet been reported? (#22)
Comment:  Does someone have some current examples of this infraction?
A (Lamb):
 I think that they have simply been missed. Once again, it is a new policy and it is taking a while for us to catch up with everything that is out there. So far, I think we have only had two referrals on unmarked forgeries. It'll take a while for the word to get out that we are really serious on these. (#31)
A (Neary):  Regarding fakes that are not properly marked, feel free to report these using the following link. We do our best to respond promptly to these inquiries.  
http://pages.ebay.com/help/contact_inline/index.html
(#32) [Note: Lulu used the same link in her answer #59.]

5a: (Followup Question - jimbo): That is not the link that is the bottom of this page.
http://pages.ebay.com/help/index_popup.html?policies=selling-stamps.html
We were told that was the link to use for reporting and one of the problems is that seems to go nowhere.
(#46)
A (Neary):  You are correct that this is not the link at the bottom of the pages but it goes into the same group at eBay (there are number of places/ways to report fraud). (#56)

6. Have you considered dividing forgeries into three types,  postal, classical, and modern? Postal forgeries are those whose intent was to defraud the post office. Most of these have been well described when they have been identified.  Classical forgeries are those created by Fournier, Sperati, Spiro, etc. The characteristics which identify them have been recorded in philatelic literature such as Schloss and Earee. Modern forgeries are those which have been made using computer technology.  Admittedly, there is not a reliable way to differentiate modern forgeries when all one has to deal with is a small .jpg image. Only the blatant examples can be noted reliably.  Often the best clues are the description and the history of the seller. (#25)
A (Lamb):  Yes, we have thought about dividing forgeries just along the way that you suggested. In fact, the proposal that was put to the APS board last August was just that. That got too complicated and the board established a committee to look into it. They will be giving a report in January at Norfolk. The subject became gray especially when talking about classical forgers. Sperati or Fournier were agreed to be classical. But there are a lot of others. But at present I think we are doing a service to the hobby going after the reproductions and the deceptive fakes.
(#44)

7. One egregious practice which has been noted is to sell large collections or accumulations salted with 
forgeries, fakes, facsimiles, and/or reproductions.  How are these treated? (#27)
A (Neary):  Large collections that contain fakes/forgeries are required to call them out in the listing and they need to be appropriately marked.

8. Have you made any progress on resolving the policy regarding "illegals?"  When a position has been taken, would that be reflected in the eBay-APS Code of Conduct? (#29)
A (Lamb):  The illegals are a special problem. The term itself is unfortunate because it is far from clear that most of these items are in fact a violation on US law. While their manufacture may violate the law, it is not at all clear that their sale, their purchase or their possession is illegal. Therefore we do not have a sound basis for disciplinary action against APS members on these items.
 (#37)

Added Question  (D. Benson): Mr. Lamb, do you consider computer replicas and/or illegals as postage stamps? (#41)
A (Lamb):  Computer replicas are not postage stamps and they should be marked as forgeries or reproductions.
The so called "Illegals" fall into three distinct categories: (1) stamps which bear the name of countries which claim that they did not issue them; (2) labels from non-existent countries such as Tuva or South Ossetia and (3) stamps from entities with flawed claims to sovereignty but nevertheless operate a genuine postal system (such as TRNC). I also understand that some of the stamps in the first category may have been issued by one faction in a country but disowned by another. Thus it is difficult for us to accept the list of "Illegals" as published. But we rely heavily on established catalogues to determine what is a genuine postage stamp.
(#61)

Followup Question (D. Benson):  Bob, thanks for your reply, how should they be marked, the only marking I have noted is the non meaningful term REPRO in ball point or handstamped on the reverse. It was also mentioned by one of your fellow APS directors yesterday that only postage stamps can be sold by APS members as postage stamps, and under the new program, only postage stamps can be sold on eBay as postage stamps. Shouldn't that mean they should only be relegated to the Cinderella/fake category and not included in with genuine postage stamps, (#70)

General Observation:

(Neary)  There have been a number of posts regarding the Stamps Community Watch (SCW) program. For those of you that are not familiar with this, let me explain how it works.

eBay established the Stamps Community Watch (SCW) group, consisting of philatelic experts from the eBay community and industry. This group proactively reviews listings for fraudulent items and selling behavior. If several members of the group agree that a particular listing is problematic, it is forwarded to the APS. If the experts at the APS confirm the findings of the SCW group they contact the seller to rectify the listing. If the APS are unable to resolve the issue directly with the seller, the claim is forwarded to eBay for the appropriate remedy.
(#38)

Questions regarding process:


1. Are bidders contacted in questionable sales, especially those that close before action can be taken? Earlier this year a picture of an inverted Jenny was slapped onto a Canadian stamp
in an obvious paste job and sold on eBay for a substantial sum. On a similar note, what happens when bad auctions run to completion in a private sale? (#53)
A (Neary):  When eBay removes a listing, the bidders are notified of the action taken. However, eBay is not in a position to make judgments regarding many listings. As such, if no action were necessary the bidders would not be contacted. eBay does this for closed listings as well so long as the item in question is still in our system. The same process are used for private auctions.
(#63)

2. Have you considered "pausing" questionable short term listings to permit time for their examination?  The listing could either be restarted or eliminated when a determination is made. This would permit interrupting the short term listings which do not permit adequate time for review.  This is an increasingly frequent avenue for the seller of fraudulent items.  Get the money and run! (#55)
A (Lulu - Pinkliner):  Thanks for your suggestion of pausing questionable short-term listings. I will pass your suggestion along to the appropriate department for consideration.
(#64)

3. Is there a "watch list" for sellers that have consistently had their auctions closed for violations of terms?  Specifically, sellers who have had auctions closed by eBay for a listing infraction end up relisting within the following 1-2 weeks, committing either the exact same infraction or, more cleverly, a variation of the infraction.  It requires diligent work by volunteers to once again report these auctions, which are often essentially relistings of the original lots.  Are there, or shouldn't there be, penalties for consistently "gaming" the process by these questionable sellers?  (See also question 4 above in Questions regarding the treatment of forgeries, etc.)
(#58)

Questions regarding resources:

1. We have been told that there are 8 members of the SWC.  Are you certain that is enough to cover the entire scope of world collecting as will be encountered on ebay.com?  Do you contemplate additions?  It seems that it would be difficult to cover the world of philately with only that number of people doing the first review.  It also might be difficult to find two of the eight sufficiently expert to pass on some of the questionable items.  Are there any results available which would show consistency of application between complaints about US and non-US offerings?  (No cancellations of eBay non-US listings as a result of complaints have been reported by those queried in creating this series of questions.) (#60)
A (Neary):  
We believe that it is important to keep information on the members/background of the SCW anonymous. All of the findings of the SCW group are validated by the APS so we feel as though there is a good level of expertise and checks and balances in the process. Currently the program is still in its test phase and additional members will be added as necessary. (#69)

2. Do you have any statistics regarding performance to date?  How many lots have been processed and how many have been corrected whether changed or deleted? What is the flow time to be expected from a report to conclusion of action? (#62)
A (Neary):  We do not currently plan to release statistics on the number of lots that have been removed from the site. That said, we are pleased with the results of the program to-date and feel that the policy changes and that the APS/SCW group have made eBay an even safer trading environment.
(#72)

3. It has been indicated that you sort some of the wheat from the chaff by some automatic rules like "all US Scott 315 (1908 5¢ blue Lincoln imperforate) singles require certificates."  You've also suggested that you're more interested in the higher value items than in the smaller.  This is understandable; however, some of the sellers of lower value items make up for the low price by going for volume.  There have been some egregious abusers in the past who have followed this principle.  What plans are there for assuring that fraudulent sellers are not remaining under the radar using low value on lots of items to avoid scrutiny?  Is the system in place to catch the long term abusers and has it been successful? (#66)
A (Neary):  There is always the chance that some sellers are flying under the "radar" as you put it. That said, we tend to have a surprisingly vigilant community so sellers with a pattern of fraudulent behavior will likely come to the attention of the group.

I would also point out that the APS/SCW program is an added level of safety and not intended to replace an educated buyer.
(#78)

Questions regarding scope:

1. Do these requirements apply only to items listed on eBay US and not other sites?  If the requirements do not apply to other sites, what precludes any seller from using that exception to bypass the policies that eBay has implemented? (#68)
A (Neary):  The APS/SCW program currently is focused only on listings on eBay.com (regardless on the location of the seller/buyer). To the extent that the program is successful, other international eBay sites will evaluate launching something similar for the local site.
(#81)

Followup Question (philatarium): Do the rules re forgeries, misleading listings, still apply on philatelic listings on other sites, whether or not the APS is involved? (#87 part)


Followup Question (jimbo):  When you say that the scope is "The APS/SCW program currently is focused only on listings on eBay.com (regardless on the location of the seller/buyer)." does that mean that it applies to listings originally made through the eBay US site or to listings seen by viewers of the eBay US Site? I see items originally listed in Australia, UK, and Canada when I look at ebay.com listings. Such listings sometimes have problems as well and will be reported. Will they be treated the same as other items in the process or not?
(#92)

2. When reviewing listings on ebay.com (the United States site), one can see items that were originally listed on the Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia sites.  Complaints can readily be made using the established reporting process for listings made from all three of those sites.  It would seem that offerings originating on any one of those sites could end up being reviewed.  There are valid complaints about offerings from the non-US sites.  Do the requirements apply to all the items shown in listings provided by ebay.com independent of the site from which they were listed?  The first response to this question was that non-US-listed items are not reviewed.  Since items listed on those sites show up in currency other than US$, you might think that the currency could be used to differentiate between the listing sources.  However, what about the option Canadian listers have to list items directly in US$? (#75)
A (Neary):  If a seller based in the UK would like their listing viewable on the US site (ebay.com), that seller has to abide by the policies of eBay.com AND eBay.co.uk. So under this scenario, the SCW/APS would be reviewing this listing if it is posted on eBay.com.  
(#94)

Followup Question (D. Benson):  I think the answer you gave to Jimbo is erroneous as it has been stated that only material originally listed on Ebay.com is being checked by the SWC. (#98)
A (Neary):  It is items on ebay.com. This includes some overseas sellers.  
(#101)

Jim Watson
November 20, 2003
Revised November 21, 2003
Revised November 24, 2003
Revised December 1, 2003
Revised December 2, 2003