An internet where people can comment on stories, leave feedback and generally get involved could all come crashing to an end if the results of a lawsuit fall in the favour of one disgruntled shop owner.
Joel Jones, a businessman based in Suffolk has filed a lawsuit against one of his eBay customers following that customer leaving negative feedback comments on eBay.
Jones filed the suit after customer Chris Read refused to remove the negative comments stating that the feedback was “unfair, unreasonable and damaging.”
Jones is claiming that it is affecting his business, but does it open wider issues over what the web has become.
User Generate Content or UGC as the marketeers like to call it, has become the cornerstone of the internet. The ability to comment on stories, leave feedback for other shoppers and generally get involved has meant that the internet is a far more useful place.
Amazon pioneered the customer review with customer feedback on whether the book or product was any good. Until recently one of eBay's core features was the ability to allow users to let other users know whether the person they are dealing with is trustworthy based on good or negative feedback.
Like most people I've bought and sold items on eBay and the user feedback has been incredibly useful.
The feedback forum was introduced by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar in February 1996. In a message then, he said: "By creating an open market that encourages honest dealings, I hope to make it easier to conduct business with strangers over the net. Now, we have an open forum. Use it. Make your complaints in the open."
However earlier in the year the company moved to stop sellers on eBay being able to leave unfavourable or neutral messages about buyers, "the idiot didn't pay me" that kind of thing, but it fell short of stopping buyers complaining about sellers: "they sent me damaged product" and that's what this case is all about.
So what's the upshot of this? Well, personally I think that if a seller is doing something wrong then other customers have the right to be warned to steer clear.
I don't want to find myself buying something from someone that continually sells products not as they are advertised. Anything that makes sure we as consumers get a better service has got to be a good thing.
After all, if you don't get good service at least this way you can flag it up for all to see rather than allow hundreds possibly thousands to fall prey to the same problems.
Where feedback is dangerous is if it's incorrect. If businessman Joel Jones sent out a mint condition phone, and customer Chris Read said he felt short-changed for no reason, then something does have to be done and action taken.
Arguably this action should have been taken - and resolved - by eBay and never have got as far as court. The auction site is often criticised for poor, and highly impersonal, conflict resolution and this case appears to back that up.
We do have a voice, and we should have a voice, we just have to make sure we use that voice honestly.
Comment, as long as it's not negative (lol) below.