I received an email out of nowhere from ebay claiming that my account has been suspended for selling "prohibited items" and there is no possibility of appeal. The items they identified as "prohibited" were

  1. A rare Syriac bible.
  2. A vintage keyboard.
  3. A Greek new testament.
  4. A commemorative physical bitcoin.

We are clearly not talking drugs, weapons and child pornography here.

I was baffled and contacted ebay via their online chat. The representative was completely unhelpful, refusing to offer any explanation for the suspension and simply repeating over and over again that "I'm sorry, but this suspension is permanent."

This is ridiculous. This is clearly and obviously unfair, unjust, hateful, bigoted, discriminatory and draconian, but my question now is; are they legally allowed to do this?

update: I kept talking to chat-help representatives and they literally were copy pasting stock responses at me. Very dehumanizing. Anyway I managed to gather from the representative that my account was picked up on the basis of some artificial intelligence algorithm identifying my account as suspicious, and therefore they don't actually know the exact reason why the account was suspended. Ok, fair enough, but that being the case, why on earth is there no possibility of appeal? Clearly there's a rogue AI on the loose here.

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    Do you for some reason think they owe you anything?
    – Greendrake
    Mar 23, 2021 at 5:58
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    How is it clearly and obviously racist or bigoted? Mar 23, 2021 at 6:29
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    @TheIronKnuckle You are saying it's clear and obvious that they wouldn't have banned you if the bible was some other rare bible and the new testament was some other religious document? How is that clear and obvious? Making bad arguments will get you bad responses. Mar 23, 2021 at 6:43
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    @DavidSchwartz if the reason they give for suspending is "you're not allowed to sell your bibles," that seems pretty clearly religious discrimination to me. Try that on with the Quran... Mar 23, 2021 at 6:47
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    @TheIronKnuckle It doesn't seem quite so clear to me. Bibles can be sold by people of all religions and can be bought by people of all religions. A book store can refuse to sell bibles without committing any religious discrimination. There's a huge establishment clause and free speech problem with imagining antidiscrimination laws compel eBay to sell bibles. You can try to make an argument that it is religious discrimination, but it's completely absurd to say it's "clear and obvious" that it is. Again, making bad arguments will get you bad results. Mar 23, 2021 at 6:56

3 Answers 3


Yes, they are.

A business can decide not to do business with someone for pretty much any reason. The obvious prohibited reason is due to your race. But I don't see how eBay would even know your race.

Some State laws might protect you, but I don't think there's any that applies in this case. For example, California might give you a means of appeal if someone stole your identity and they performed those transactions, not you.

But I don't know of any Federal or State law that would change the very, very basic principle of law that a property owner gets to decide who can and cannot access their property. eBay owns eBay.

One key benefit of ownership is precisely that you can make decisions that other people consider to be unfair, discriminatory (other than the specifically prohibited categories) and draconian. Other people don't have to agree with your decisions for them to be lawful.

  • well, that sucks. But if that's how it is, ok. The "rogue AI" factor is still pretty iffy tho. would tickle my "revenge bone" to turn it into a PR disaster for them somehow Mar 23, 2021 at 6:39
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    As someone with a lifetime ban from PayPal for transactions that I did not make, I can confirm that it definitely does suck. This is especially true because numerous business only accept PayPal (or credit cards through PayPal which doesn't work if you have a ban). It sucks, but the law won't help you. Mar 23, 2021 at 6:46
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    also why everyone should avoid using PayPal for anything ever
    – user253751
    Mar 23, 2021 at 8:37

Depends where you are

eBay does not have the same terms and conditions worldwide.

In the , yes. Term 4 concludes with:

The foregoing does not limit or impair our right to refuse, modify, or terminate all or part of our Services to anyone, or to terminate this agreement with anyone, for any reason at our discretion.

In , no. Term 4 is very different. It says (in part):

Additionally, we may, in appropriate circumstances and at our reasonable discretion, suspend or terminate accounts of users who may be repeat infringers of intellectual property rights of third parties.

In the USA, eBay can act capriciously, in Australia it must act reasonably.


This is ridiculous

Maybe. Just because you don't know of a good reason doesn't mean there isn't one.

This is clearly and obviously unfair, unjust, hateful, bigoted, discriminatory and draconian

It's not quite so clear and obvious to me.

  • Unfair: maybe, but we really don't know their reason
  • Unjust: doesn't this mean the same thing?
  • Hateful: it doesn't take malice to make a business decision, and there's no evidence of any here regardless.
  • Bigoted: not so fast, my friend. What is bigoted about it? You think they're applying the age-old Syriac hate doctrine? Because they know it applies to you? Really?
  • Discriminatory: now a more legalese version of bigoted, but what protected class do you think you belong to that has been harmed due to membership in said group?
  • Draconian: harsh and severe to you, but really your only damage is not being able to use a service they provide.

In short, you will get nowhere with eBay directly nor in the court of public opinion with those arguments.

You're mad about their "Rogue AI algo." It might be doing exactly what it's supposed to. Maybe something about your account is associated with high rates of fraud. So now it's permanently suspended. They wouldn't tell you the criteria because they don't want people reverse engineering it to avoid getting caught for fraud. They also wouldn't actually accuse you of fraud, they would just make a decision based on statistics or AI to help their business. If three dozen scammers sold Syriac bibles so now it's an indicator of fraud, then it's just bad luck for you.

Of course you can be mad. It's useful, however, to understand the purpose of eBay. Its purpose is not to make you money. It's to make them money.

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