Passport history expert and author Tom Topol is raising the alarm about an apparent shift in eBay policy enforcement that is causing valuable and important historical documents to be removed from the marketplace.
Topol says eBay has recently purged vintage and antique passports that had previously been allowed to be sold on the platform.
Officially, eBay's written policies about the sale of passports changed in 2019 - the policy had previously allowed the sale of US passports that were issued more than 20 years before the date of sale.
The policy page was changed to remove that exception and since mid-2019 it has said the sale of passports is prohibited, with no exceptions.
However, as Topol points out, the policy has until recently been very loosely enforced and eBay has shown leniency for many listings which still abide by the old policy.
It appears the recent purge may be automated and impacted sellers were given no warning or explanation for the sudden mass delisting of items that had been allowed for years.
On top of that, the current enforcement actions have been unevenly applied, with some much newer passports still being allowed but 100 year old documents being removed.
The whole debacle shows how confusing and unevenly enforced eBay policy can be and the labyrinthine support system that often leaves sellers in the dark or worse, receiving conflicting information from multiple reps with no feasible escalation path to get issues resolved.
Topol reports being told by support that the previous 20 year expired policy is still an "internal rule" and vintage passports that fit those guidelines are still allowed - but many sellers have experienced being told incorrect information by eBay support over the years and it's a dangerous game to play when your account could be shut down for too many policy violations.
As Topol points out on his site, the sale of these types of documents can be complicated, with different countries having their own laws and regulations as well as eBay's own obligations to protect consumers from fake, illegal or fraudulent items.
Perhaps that would be a good reason for eBay to consult with experts in the field, like Topol, to craft nuanced policies and procedures that respect laws and regulations while also allowing eBay to be the preferred marketplace for important historical collector items, rather than leaving it up to automated systems that can ruin entire businesses with one false positive result or incorrectly applied policy enforcement action.