eBay’s Move To Regulate Trading Card Breaks Could Be A Game Changer For Breaking World
The e-commerce giant eBay announced that it is entering the world of card breaks. Or, more precisely, entering the world of enforcing sports card-breaking.
As anyone who uses eBay regularly to purchase trading cards knows, spots in breaks are routinely sold on the platform. However, there has been little supervision of this. Now eBay has announced that it will only allow approved sellers to sell spots on the site.
What does this mean? We have all the answers in our overview of plans for eBay’s move to Regulate trading card breaks.
What did eBay say in its move to regulate trading card breaks?
On June 15, 2023, eBay sellers received an email from the e-commerce corporation:
“The eBay trading cards community is filled with dedicated enthusiasts and fans looking to buy and sell in this category. With the growing popularity of case, box, and pack breaks, we’re taking steps to allow sellers and buyers to participate in these live events.
Effective July 18, 2023, pre-approved sellers may only sell case, box, and pack breaks. Any live auctions underway can be completed, but after July 18, you’ll no longer be able to start new break listings.
Sellers who have been pre-approved to sell live breaks will be contacted directly. We’re continuously working to support our trading card sellers. We’ll reach out if future opportunities open up for selling cases, boxes, and pack breaks. Thanks for being part of the eBay community.”
What does eBay’s new sports card-breaking policy mean?
At first glance, eBay offers an exciting opportunity with this message, allowing breakers to hold their breaks on the platform. And some exciting developments in that regard may have yet to be announced. However, that is not the main message here.
After all, countless spots in breaks have been sold on eBay over the last few years. What is new is not the possibility of selling break spots on the e-commerce platform. Instead, it is cracking down on that ability and will only allow a select few to participate, at least for now.
Who are the chosen ones allowed to run their breaks on eBay? Right now, we do not know. The message behind the email appears to be that there is no method for application, at least not yet. Instead, eBay promises: “Sellers who have been pre-approved to sell live breaks will be contacted directly.”
We would imagine that sellers with stellar reputations and good customer feedback are first on their list.
Why is eBay limiting sports card break sales?
We can’t read the mind of eBay executives and have to speculate on their reasons for eBay’s move to regulate trading card breaks. But it isn’t too hard to guess. There are likely two major reasons for this move.
First, as we know, many disputes arise from trading card breaks. Some breakers try to withhold cards or trick their customers in various ways. Other times, customers may try to use eBay’s customer service standards to cheat breakers out of money and cards. And, of course, with a messy and lawless format like card breaks, many of the disputes originate in misunderstandings.
Either way, resolving disputes costs eBay money and resources. They probably figure it’s best to eliminate troublesome breakers who are costing the e-commerce company dearly.
The second is a more long-term vision. eBay has brand recognition and is relatively trustworthy in a hobby full of irrefutable actors addition, just about everyone in the hobby has an account already. They could leverage that into turning eBay into a significant market for breaks. They could earn a good commission if they properly leverage these advantages.
Is eBay’s card break policy a good thing for the hobby?
We don’t have all the details on the policy yet and will await clarification before we can make a final verdict. However, there is a clear need for more regulation in the breaking world. There are no clear federal laws regarding breaks; legally speaking, we aren’t even sure how to classify them.
Are breaks a form of entertainment or a kind of raffle? The answer is clearly the latter and should be regulated as such. But the law remains unclear.
This may sound technical, but it’s of crucial importance. If you get cheated during a break, your remedy is unclear. The local police will certainly not know how to handle it.
A civil lawsuit can be expensive and tricky when no clear precedents are set. Therefore, many have resorted to going online to name and shame shady breakers. But all this means is that it is essentially the laws of the Wild West in the breaking world. There is no certainty that you will receive what is rightfully yours after paying into a break.
What eBay can bring to regulation
eBay can, at least potentially, change that. It has traditionally sided with the consumer on purchase disputes. That tendency has benefited its image by creating a relatively safe environment to buy sports cards. Indeed, eBay has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau since 1998 and has an A+ rating.
If they can bring that standard of reliability to the world of sports card breaks, that is undoubtedly a good thing for consumers. Those of us who buy on eBay, which is pretty much everyone in the hobby, have long-standing experience with eBay’s dispute mechanisms. They may not always get things right, but at least they provide a somewhat reliable framework to work problems out.
And, of course, the move can also be beneficial for eBay’s bottom line. A lot of breaking is currently taking place on Whatnot and YouTube. But people are sometimes getting robbed blind, especially on Whatnot, which is not accredited and has an F rating from the Better Business Bureau. Suppose they can bring their relatively trustworthy dispute resolution mechanism to breaking.
The serious logistic hurdles to regulating card breaks
The card-breaking world is partially wild because some breakers and platforms want it that way. However, serious logistical problems have also made dealing with this a nightmare. It is a lot to ask for the folks at eBay to go over every break in detail as we do here at Cardlines.
As Dukefett from Blowout Forums put it:
“Preorders aren’t ‘allowed’ on eBay despite them being there all over. You basically have to have what you’re selling in hand and ship it and absolutely have to describe it accurately.
I can see breaks being huge issues for ‘item not as described’ returns. eBay doesn’t take video as evidence for any disputes. Now, will they have an eBay employee watch an hour-long (or more) video to see if every Padres card pulled was sent to me if I bought that listing? I’m honestly kind of shocked they will work with these at all, but I guess limiting it to these groups will help, and I have to imagine some added fees.”
Indeed, these are just some of the problems eBay will face in enforcing this. However, even if they only bring partial order into the breaking space, it will be far better than the situation today.
What is the downside of eBay’s new breaking policy?
Like any significant platform, eBay has been accused of picking winners and losers. They are at least perceived to regularly prefer their more significant sellers with a more cash flow over smaller outfits. While the company vociferously denies it, it does make sense that eBay would provide more leeway for the sellers who provide them with the most significant amount of commissions.
Some concern has been voiced by sellers who traffic in breaks on the platform. One seller told Cardlines, “We don’t know the approval criteria. Because we are small, we doubt we will be contacted any time soon.”
We have to put this anxiety into context. The primary trend we have seen in the hobby over the last three years is the concentration of power and wealth in fewer hands. Fanatics, PSA and eBay, have emerged as power players gobbling up everything else in sight. That has left small to medium-sized card sellers feeling insecure about their place in the hobby
. Indeed, with these big companies trying to take control of the entire process from card production to distribution, the future of the local card shops and the smaller eBay sellers is in doubt.
A final word on the eBay move to regulate card breaks
Starting on June 18, only approved sellers can sell break spots on eBay. At first, that will limit the number of breaks available on the e-commerce platform. However, likely, this measure is not meant to limit the number of breaks available in the long term. Instead, eBay will likely launch a revamped and streamlined breaking service when the infrastructure is in place.
Will that be a good thing for the hobby? It almost certainly will give added security to customers. eBay does better than most in that regard. But we hope this will benefit small and medium-sized sellers as well. To do that, we hope eBay does not discriminate against them and provides them the same opportunities and support as the big boys.