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Etsy defends T&Cs after shutting down merchant’s shop

Thursday, 16 May 2013 | By Michelle Hammond

US-based eCommerce website Etsy has defended its terms and conditions after an Etsy seller claimed his shop was shut down amid suspicions his products weren’t handmade.


Etsy, which claims to be “the world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace”, allows people to buy and sell handmade or vintage items as well as art and craft supplies.


In May last year, Etsy opened a showroom in Melbourne, with a local spokesperson declaring Australia “one of Etsy’s most important international markets”.


While Etsy continues to enjoy strong growth in Australia and internationally, a former Brooklyn-based merchant has accused the company of unexpectedly closing down his online shop.


Brendan Byrne, who describes himself as an electronic artist, has written a blog post in which he claims his shop was shut down due to suspicions about the construction process of his items.


“I’ve managed a shop on Etsy for the past five months selling electronic devices and synthesisers,” Bryne wrote on May 14.


“Two days ago, my shop was unexpectedly closed and I received an email stating that there was suspicion that I hadn’t constructed my devices by hand.”


Byrne said Etsy asked him to submit photos of his workshop, the devices and the raw materials used to construct them.


“They also requested I supply photos of the build process. I didn’t take photos during construction so I didn’t have any,” he said.


“I noticed nowhere in Etsy’s Terms of Use or Dos and Don’ts page does it say anything [about sellers documenting the build process]… I appealed to the representative to no avail.”


Etsy told StartupSmart it can’t comment on specific cases, so it’s unknown whether Byrne did in fact breach the company’s terms and conditions or whether Etsy will reopen his shop.


According to Etsy, every reported shop is reviewed and evaluated on an individual basis. Shops can be “reported” by community members, employees or automated tools.


“Anyone can report or ‘flag’ items or sellers they feel are not compliant with Etsy’s marketplace policies,” the company said in a statement.


“Etsy policies are written to balance community values with a desire to allow creative expression.


“In our Privacy Policy, we state, ‘Etsy may contact individual shop owners to confidentially request more information about their shops or items listed on the site, to ensure compliance with our rules’.


“We have a rigorous inquiry process, and we have policy experts on staff to evaluate shops in question.”


Etsy said it also employs “subject matter experts” to evaluate the processes specific to different crafts.


“We fully admit that this is a human process and that we exercise our best judgment in each case,” it said.


“That said, our goal is always to make our marketplace accessible to creative entrepreneurs that want to run their businesses here and are compliant with our policies.”