Ebay bait advertising (apparently perfectly ok)

Edit: New readers to this topic can join the discussion at post 47 on 23 March 2022.

I was looking into purchasing a wifi extender from ebay. I found one advertised by an Australian seller for $4.99 http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Lot-300Mbps-Wireless-N-802-11-AP-Wifi-Range-Router-Repeater-Extender-Booster-E5/181923151416?_trksid=p2045573.c100033.m2042&_trkparms=aid%3D111001%26algo%3DREC.SEED%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D20131017132637%26meid%3Dfe442214bb164d3e9d82fcf428edae49%26pid%3D100033%26rk%3D1%26rkt%3D8%26mehot%3Dag%26sd%3D181923151416

The only problem is when you try to buy it, the price is $19.99. I’ve tried to contact the seller, but had no response. I contacted ebay and they claim they check every listing including this one meets Australian consumer laws.

I don’t agree as there is no way to buy the product at the advertised price. If you look at the listing, the seller has another unrelated item available for $4.99, but I don’t need that. If this is ok to sell items like this, where I work we sell USB drives for $10 and that is what our signs say, but I could change the signs to show USB drives for $2.50 but still charge $10 as we sell earphones for $2.50. That would drive up sales and appears to be legal.


I looked at the ad. It has a selection of 3 “products”.

2 appear to be different coloured range repeater/extender/boosters and one a USB wifi adapter. This vendor seems to have multiple ads featuring the “E5” USB Wifi adapter in stand alone offers as well as this one. It is not obvious what E5 has to do with the USB Wifi adapter excepting that is what this vendor calls it, so maybe E5 comes from his suppliers nomenclature.

Back to his ad, the product pulldown shows the products and their price. There are many similar ads across ebay offering variations of the headline product where colours or details such as size or wattage/lumens/style result in differing prices, but the headline description usually suggests there are multiple products and they are usually variations of the same, not different products such as referenced here, although these products are related.

Conclusion - it is click-bait advertising, but not misleading to a purchaser.

The adaptor is not mentioned anywhere in the listing except for when you try and select your colour. It appears this is legal, so there’s no reason why I can’t do the same on my signs for the two items I sell. Both are used on our public computers, so I just need to remove the $10 for the USB drives and change it to $2.50 as that’s what we sell the earphones for. It will work better for us, but it would become chaotic if everyone started doing it.

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Not in the listing, but the “E5” at the end of the headline appears to be his reference to the adapter. He also has the picture of the adapter in the photos.

I repeat that I agree it is click baiting but click baiting is prevalent across ebay as well as most media outlets, just for a starter.

You could indeed make an ad that headlines similar to “USB drives headphones cat5 cables” and default the displayed default price of $2.50 that shows until a pulldown selects the product. Headphones stay at $2.50, USB drive at $10, cat5 cable-5m at $15.

Brick and mortar shops also do it with their “discounts up to 60%” sales. That product with a 60% discount can be pretty elusive.


@hitspacebar thanks for flagging this. The ad is definitely confusing to say the least, and like @PhilT it’s unfortunately widespread. It’s clear that some sellers like to play on technical ‘grey’ areas to different degrees (even though the outcome is fairly clear). I’ll mention this to my colleagues as a story idea for CHOICE.

Since the seller has not offered a reply, you could also take five minutes to submit a report with the ACCC.


Thanks Brendan, I’ve now submitted a report to the ACCC. It makes it had to compare prices of an item from different sellers if you can’t see how much an item really costs before selecting the colour.


I’ve seen this quite a bit - mobile phone cases and usb/dv cables seem to be clogged with them. When you get to the item specific page and actually select colour, length, phone, whatever the options are, you find either that there is no option at that price, or in the example below the option at that price is an entirely different item to both the one you searched for and what was returned (stylus isn’t mentioned in my search or the returned list of items).

I think this not so much a gray area as one of blatant dishonesty on the part of the seller. As an exercise, I tried getting answers out of a few sellers some time back, and they either didn’t reply at all or came back with a numb story like “thats the price for the stylus” and seemingly no comprehension that being misleading or dishonest isn’t part of a normal seller/buyer relationship.

In the example below - it stays at 1$ until you select something, unless it’s the stylus.

Not surprisingly, EBay aren’t interested in the problem.

Edited to add: click on the graphic for a larger version, and the top half is a screen grab from the normal ebay search while the bottom half is a screen grab from the item details page.


That makes sorting by lowest price first useless as you’d have to look in each listing to see which one really is the lowest price. I suppose it is in ebay’s interests to approve these listings as they’re making money out of it.

A stylus pen is not even relevant when you are looking for a phone case and as it isn’t mentioned anywhere in the listing, it should not be legal to have it as an option.

It would be good to have this practice eliminated before it spreads to other platforms.


Thanks @draughtrider. If anyone else has come across examples in there travels, please post them here so I can pass them on :+1:

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I always have my eBay searches set to show the lowest price including postage first, so a lot of these so called $1 items are actually worth quite a bit more than the $1 that the search results list them as. The $1 item is usually for something not even remotely related to the rest of the items in the list and is simply there so that the seller can fraudulently get their items listed first in the search results. eBay allows it to happen, so there’s not much that can be done apart from hitting the report button and hoping eBay takes notice enough to give the seller a penalty. It’s a very widespread and common practice, so unless eBay makes some big changes to their policies and checking procedures, it’s not going to make much of a difference whether you report the seller or not.


snap. see above. @BrendanMays this is so common, there are a brazillion (thankyou Mr Bush) examples. Ebay search for any mobile phone case, or usb type c, I know I’ve seen others - sort by lowest price plus shipping first and look at the buy it now ones - I reckon with some spare time coming up with a hundred examples would be easy. Very widespread and common as @NubglummerySnr said. So often we only see this in our field of searching too, but think primarily of the kind of products that come from our immediate neighbours to the north and you’d be in the thick of it - consumer electronics springs to mind.

As for what can be done - EBay has an Australian presence. It would be interesting to know to what extent they are bound to our consumer law. Certainly what they allow here is clear deception, which morally is unacceptable anywhere … surely … heh, yeah I know …


Ebay don’t think they are breaking the law, but in the case of the seller in my original post, they are an Aussie seller so should be bound by our laws anyway.

We could get to the stage where every seller has a $1.00 item on offer so they can all advertise anything they want for $1.00, they wouldn’t even need to keep many of them in stock as nobody is likely to buy their token cheap unadvertised item.


Learnt something new. I thought a Brazillion was to do with Ms Bush. :slight_smile:


Another eBay policy that I find very irritating is their allowance of 1-day auction listings - that can be renewed every day! I have a number of searches for which eBay emails me ‘new’ listings each day. Some categories have hundreds of ‘new’ listings which are simply re-listings of the same products that were there yesterday. :unamused:


Here’s the response from the ACCC. It looks like they can’t really do anything. By the looks of it, they don’t have any powers at all:

Thank you for writing to us about your wifi extender. We have recorded the details of your report. We can offer you information about your consumer rights and the ACCC’s role.
Your rights: accurate information

The Australian Consumer Law provides consumers with the right to truthful and accurate representations when buying a product or service. This means that businesses must not mislead you with statements that are incorrect or likely to give you the wrong impression. This rule applies to information that a business provides you in any medium, including when talking to a sales representative, on packaging, in online shopping forums or social media.
If a business misleads you, and you experience loss, you might be entitled to a remedy.
You can read more about false or misleading claims on our website. Our advertising and selling guide is also a handy resource for businesses to ensure their advertising complies with the law.
Disclosing important facts

Businesses do not have to tell you everything they know about a product or service they are selling. But sometimes they should give you extra information to make sure you do not get the wrong impression overall. For example, if you are interested in a mobile phone—and the salesperson knows it will not work in your neighbourhood—they should tell you
What the ACCC does

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is an independent Commonwealth statutory authority. We are Australia’s competition and consumer regulator. We promote competition and fair trading and regulate national infrastructure to make markets work for everyone.
You can submit a report to the ACCC to alert us to businesses that may be doing the wrong thing by behaving in a way that is anticompetitive or not abiding by fair trading laws.
We value this information and it helps us find the biggest issues to investigate further, considered against our Compliance and Enforcement policy.
We also guide consumers and small business to identify:
information about their rights and what to do when something goes wrong
services or agencies who can assist them more directly.
We do not act on behalf of consumers or businesses to resolve their individual disputes with businesses or organisations. Only a court can make determinations on whether a breach of the legislation has occurred; we can’t provide businesses or consumers with legal advice.
All responses will be provided within 15 working days.
We have recorded your report

We appreciate you reporting your matter to us. All information is potentially valuable to help us identify trends and where we can most effectively direct our resources, so we encourage you to report any behaviour or business practice that is concerning to you.
What the ACCC does with information from reports

The ACCC focuses on enforcing the laws we administer in circumstances that have the potential to harm the competitive process or result in widespread consumer or business detriment. We use reports received from the public and small business, as well as other sources of intelligence, to inform our work. When the ACCC takes action, it is to remedy market problems; we are not a complaint handling body and don’t resolve individual disputes. You can read more about how we prioritise our work and what we can and can’t do for consumers on our website.
We hope the information we have provided today will help you to resolve your dispute.
Yours sincerely

Public Information Officer | Infocentre
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission


Ah, the standard ACCC form letter reply they seem to send to everyone. I’ve had that for a different enquiry I made with them a few years ago. No memory of what it was about back then but I basically had the same reply as this one.


Looks like they are a waste of time. They’re not interested in helping us. Looks like all they do is record the complaint and that’s the end of it. We’re too small to worry about. Maybe if Choice makes a bit of noise, they might notice.


This one is so precious I had to post it.


A wheel nut for $1! But $30 to ship. In a situation like this, sellers should be forced to advertised the maximum possible price. In this case at least $1,800, but $800 if they mentioned the gearbox in the main part of the listing.


In this situation the seller is breaking eBay’s rules by giving personal contact details to sell items that are not actually listed for sale
except in the descriptive text, which means ebay doesn’t get any percentages when he sells anything. This is why eBay gives us a Report This Listing option, and yes, I reported it.