eBay deleting auctions with Jajah buttons

It’s a little like a dirty fight in the school yard: Little kid throws stone at big kid and when the teacher turns round, the little kid starts bawling and the big kid takes the heat.

On Monday Internet telephony company Jajah started releasing “call-me” buttons which sets up a real phone call between two parties, with the voice re-routed over the Internet. Jajah doesn’t require sign ups, downloads or headsets – you use a normal phone, the caller pays nothing and the contact details of both parties are kept private.

These buttons could be embedded on any web page, including “auctions”, Jajah pointed out, helpfully. A day later they’d changed the wording to “customized for eBay”. Jajah clearly knew what it was getting into.

Predictably the buttons started turning up on eBay and predictably eBay has started deleting entire auctions which carried the buttons. Perhaps eBay is also smarting from reducing its valuation of Skype by $1.3 billion, which it bought in 2005 for $2.6bn, since it was always meant to be Skype which connected buyers and sellers over VOIP.

eBay’s response to the resulting furor amongst those auctioneers who’ve seen their auctions vanish has been that the Jajah links “violated the eBay Inappropriate Links policy… links or other connections to live chat systems are not permitted.” That is, unless the chat system is Skype of course.

Jajah co-founder Roman Scharf says he is “currently seeking to get clarification from eBay.” He may have to wait a while, but what does he care? The longer the controversy continues, the better for Jajah.

Ironically, eBay may have to get used to deleting auctions which carry competing VOIP links. As our recent post on TringMe shows, there is any number of VOIP startups clamoring at eBay’s gate with call me buttons.

I don’t have much sympathy for eBay. The reason it is having to deal with this kind of thing is because it has not made proper use of Skype in auctions, limiting its use to Power Sellers. When average users take matters into their own hands to help their auctions, eBay can hardly cry foul.

Let’s remember that when eBay bought Skype in 2005 it said: “Buyers will gain an easy way to talk to sellers quickly and get the information they need to buy, and sellers can more easily build relationships with customers and close sales. As a result, Skype can increase the velocity of trade on eBay, especially in categories that require more involved communications such as used cars, business and industrial equipment, and high-end collectibles.”

Unless eBay really starts promoting Skype for the reason they bought it in the first place – they will have to go on deleting auctions and annoying the customers who made them successful in the first place.

Update (Nick): Jajah has started a petition protesting eBay’s actions.