I find this to be unusual. It seems that sometime between July 23rd 2011 or later and May 31st 2012,  ebay quietly changed it’s shill bidding policy from this:

What are the guidelines?

Restricted

Using Buy It Now or a fixed price format to buy an item from someone you know, as long as you don’t violate our Feedback manipulation or search and browse manipulation policies

Not allowed

  • Bidding on your own items with another account
  • Bidding on items being sold by someone you know

Shill_bidding_policy_Internet_Archives

To this (the current verbiage.)

What are the guidelines?

Restricted

Buying an item from someone you know, as long as you don’t intend to artificially increase its price or desirability or violate our Feedback manipulation or search and browse manipulation policies

Not allowed

Bidding on your own items with another account

Current Shill bidding policy

As you can see, those are quite substantial changes.

I have searched the ebaY announcements and forums extensively now,  finding nothing announcing or referring to this alteration.

June 9, 2012:

To update a bit here.

HelpOwl_Selling_eBay Support_September 14, 2011

I’ve located indication the shill bidding policy existed in it’s former state here in September 2011.

Also this search on Blekko, which is for exact, partial verbiage of the former policy language,  indicates that the page was likely changed much much later than that, however long since Blekko’s last crawl. Note that I captured this on June 3rd, 2012. That is very telling.

(click thumbnails to enlarge in a new tab or window)

'Bidding on items being sold by someone you know'_search_blekko_20120603

Furthermore, I’ve examined the shill bidding policy or corresponding page of each and every English language ebaY site on the planet and found that nowhere else was language regarding employees bidding on their employer’s auctions removed other than the USA. Try it yourself.

Here is an example. Ebay India Shill Bidding Policy page. You’ll notice the language regarding employees bidding, with basically only the names in the examples changed.

Shill_bidding_policy_ebaY_India

Very curious to say the least. The implications are huge.

To complicate matters, ebay still has shill bidding tutorials in place which contain the language regarding employees disallowed to bid on their employer’s items. Those pages are nearly identical worldwide.

Update 06-12-2012: It seems the shill bidding tutorials for the USA have been altered as well. Learn more.

As far as the USA, there is some blatantly conflicting info being is being dispensed on ebay’s pages: the shill bidding policy Vs shill bidding tutuorial.

This discovery also comes on the heels of a full blown scandal involving VH1′s “House of Consignment” TV reality star, ebay seller and edropoff owner Corri McFadden,  who is accused of shill bidding and now being criticized for censorship and abuse of both critics and the court system, with an attempt to silence her critics with a SLAPP.

The changes to the policy would make it very easy for ebaY to claim the alleged shill bidder was acting within the rules. So finding exactly when that policy was changed may be a crucial fact with regards to that matter.

I’m wondering whether ebay may make a statement as to when and why this policy was changed?

See this update:

ebaY’s Secret Shill Bidding Policy and Tutorial Changes Revisited