Gumtree, the large international classifieds website and eBay subsidiary, is auto-removing bitcoin-related listings from its UK sites and has said bitcoin falls under its restricted items policy.

User Mark Le from Margate, Kent, reported that when he tried posting requests to buy bitcoins in Gumtree’s ‘Wanted’ section, he received the following message:

“Unfortunately we have had to remove your ad “I will buy your Bitcoins” posted in the category “Miscellaneous” from the site.

We believe that this ad is offering something that we do not accept on Gumtree.

To see the list of items that cannot be advertised on Gumtree please go to: Items Not Allowed on Gumtree. Thank you for your understanding.”

Oddly enough, he said this was after he had posted the original listing in the ‘Miscellaneous’ category by mistake and Gumtree actually advised him to place it in the more appropriate ‘Wanted’ category.

The listing was removed from Gumtree local sites in Kent and London, as well as from the general UK site. Eventually, Le posted it on the Gumtree South Africa site where it was accepted.

There is no specific reference to bitcoin on the ‘Items Not Allowed’ page, which refers mostly to illegal items and others that may incur the wrath of original sellers, like sports event tickets, Virgin Media Set boxes, and unlocked hardware.

Gumtree also bans ‘virtual merchandise and products’, but said this is “mainly due to the licensing agreements in place with the providers of such products”.

CoinDesk’s request for clarification from Gumtree received the following response:

“Kindly note that Gumtree is a Classified website, and the company itself has regulated some policies that we do not allow to be advertised on our site.

Unfortunately as one of these regulations is that we do not allow any bitcoin advertisements to be posted, once such adverts are posted they will get automatically detected from the system itself and the advert will then be removed.

However I will still forward such feedback that you have provided so our development team will be able to have a look into this from their end. I do apologise for any inconvenience caused, and do feel free to get back to me if you require further more my assistance.”

No further reason for the decision to block bitcoin was given. This is despite recent positive comments by parent company eBay’s CEO John Donahoe on bitcoin, saying there was no current plan to implement it as a payment option, but hinting he is interested in adding it at some point in the future. Ebay has also been known to remove some bitcoin-related ads if placed outside the correct category.

Update: Gumtree has since clarified that, while it doesn’t allow bitcoin buying and selling ads under its ‘virtual goods’ policy, it is still happy to accept ads requesting payment by bitcoin.

Gumtree’s history

Gumtree is an online classifieds and community site which started in London in 2000 as a service for local Australian, New Zealand and South African expats.

Now available in English and Polish, it has expanded over the past decade or so to cover several cities in over eight countries, including most English-speaking countries, as well as Italy, France, Germany, Hong Kong and Poland. It began operating in some US cities in 2007.

It claims to be the most popular classifieds site in the UK and was acquired by eBay’s classifieds group in 2005. The main page shows categories for over 1.7m listings including For Sale, Jobs, Services and Flats & Houses.

Gumtree may be extra wary of bitcoin due to its 2008 experience with fraudsters using Western Union money transfers to operate a rent scam. The criminals operated out of Nigeria, but as is the case with similar sites, like Craigslist, it has been used as a platform for a number of other scams relating to property renting.

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