eBay’s rules for refurbished tech terrify right-to-repair activists

eBay plays a vital role in the recycling economy. It’s the world’s oldest and largest auction site. Electronics refurbishers depend on its global ecosystem of over 138 million consumers.

But recent changes to eBay’s terms threaten to upend that relationship, with some recyclers warning about potential market-distorting effects and a lack of transparency.

The non-disclosure agreement

eBay introduced ‘eBay Refurbished’ several months ago. At face value, it seems like a sensible — even consumer-friendly — move.

It aims to formalize the refurbished technology industry, introducing an element of quality control typically expected when buying new.

ebay refurbished conditions
Screenshot: KnowTechie

But the devil lies in the details. Prospective members of the ‘eBay Refurbished’ program must first sign an MNDA (mutual non-disclosure agreement).

This legally-binding document introduces a level of opacity within the eBay ecosystem that didn’t previously exist.

In practice, it prevents sellers from publicly sharing the details of the program or the terms of the ‘eBay Refurbished’ agreement.

KnowTechie has obtained a copy of the ‘eBay Refurbished’ MNDA. At the request of the vendor, we are not publishing it here.

Although the vendor did not sign the document, they nonetheless do not wish to risk jeopardizing their relationship with the company.

The MNDA is just one page, but its terseness is offset by its sweeping language. It obliges vendors to keep any information declared ‘confidential’ secret for three years after disclosure.

The MNDA cites several examples of potentially confidential information. At face value, they’re reasonable. They include things like remanufacturing processes and customer records.

KnowTechie obtained emails from an eBay representative to a prospective member.

The representative confirmed that the terms of the program, as well as the vetting process required to become an ‘eBay Refurbished’ seller, fall under the ‘confidential’ descriptor.

Additionally, vendors are bound by the MNDA even if eBay rejects their application. Shrouded under a thick cloak of secrecy, independent vendors cannot effectively negotiate with the e-commerce behemoth.

The stigma of ‘used’

To be…