eBay is launching a dedicated Virtual Currency category on eBay Classifieds in the UK on 10th February.
The Classified Ads category will allow for the sale of all types of digital currency, including bitcoin and litecoin, eBay representatives have confirmed.
eBay Classifieds, which lists posts throughout the site, serves as the site's answer to Craigslist. eBay provides the free platform for local buyers and sellers to connect, but does not participate in the transactions.
Ryan Moore, Manager of Business Communications at eBay, said:
"To promote a trustworthy marketplace and ensure compliance with applicable regulations, eBay is currently updating its Currency Policy. The updated policy will clarify that listings for Bitcoin and other similar virtual currencies must be listed in the Virtual Currency Category in the Classified Ad format.
The Virtual Currency category is expected to be available on the UK site on February 10th."
A Reddit post earlier today sparked rumours of the change in policy. The post included an email from eBay stating that the company does not currently permit listings of digital currencies, but that this will soon change.
The email reads:
"Please know that per our recent policy update, Virtual Currency (i.e. Bitcoin and Litecoin), whether digitally or physically delivered, cannot be listed in Auction-style or Buy-It-Now listing formats. eBay is opening a Virtual Currency category to allow the sale of virtual currency in Classified Ads format on February 10, 2014.
We request that you do not list these items until that date. Please be informed that repeated breach of the policy may further jeopardize your account status. To avoid any inconvenience in future, we'd appreciated it if you go through our help pages or contact us before listing any such items."
At press time, the policy change only applies to eBay's UK site. An eBay customer service representative said: "Our policies are different for different country sites, so to know more about other countries, you need to contact the respective eBay sites."
In December, an eBay user found a loophole that enabled him to sell digital currency via the site. He confirmed via customer service employees from eBay that virtual currencies could be sold on the platform, provided they are housed in physical items (like USB sticks or hard drives).
Both eBay president John Donahoe and David Marcus, president of eBay-owned PayPal, have shared their positive views on bitcoin in recent months, with Donahoe stating that he believes digital currency is going to be a “very powerful thing” in the future.
Marcus has been much more vocal in his support of bitcoin, labelling digital currency "truly fascinating" in one interview and even going as far as to call it the future of money in another.
This week, Marcus pledged his support to bitcoin on Twitter, stating that those at PayPal are "believers in BTC".
To clarify: we have no policies against using PayPal to sell Bitcoin mining rigs. We don't support any currency txn whether fiat or BTC...
— David Marcus (@davidmarcus) January 13, 2014
...for a host of regulatory issues. But we treat BTC and any FX txn the same way. We're believers in BTC though.
— David Marcus (@davidmarcus) January 13, 2014
A small step
While today's development isn't quite the eBay-accepts-bitcoin-payments announcement that digital currency enthusiasts have been seeking, it should not be overlooked. The company has shown it is certainly not anti-bitcoin, and that it is prepared to adjust its policies to accommodate the fledgling currency and its alternatives.
The firm's bosses have made it clear they are interested in virtual currency and they are sure to be watching closely as other large online retailers start to accept it as a form of payment.
Overstock – a company with revenue of $1.1bn for 2012 – started accepting bitcoin last week, using California-based online wallet and payment processing firm Coinbase to handle its transactions. The company subsequently enjoyed a huge surge in sales, as CEO Patrick Byrne revealed on Twitter.
— Patrick M. Byrne (@OverstockCEO) January 10, 2014
Byrne said in a recent interview with CNN International that he is certain other retail giants will follow his company's lead and start accepting bitcoin payments soon.
"This forces the hand of Amazon and some other big players. They have to follow suit. You will see them follow suit, I’ll be stunned if you don’t, because they can’t just cede that part of the market to us, if we’re the only main, large retail site taking bitcoin. Either they have to start taking it, or they’re just giving away a piece of the market,” he said.
Whether eBay will start to accept bitcoin is unclear, but what is certain is that, with a global customer base of 233 million and revenue of $14.07bn in 2012, doing so would give digital currency a huge mainstream boost.