RISC World

Keep your eBay listings legal

We take a closer look at what's not allowed and why.

When you first discover eBay, it can feel as though there's nothing you can't buy on this enormous site.

But, as with everything else, there are rules to be obeyed and so there are some things that simply can't be put up for sale. The rules and regulations tell us selling 'stolen items' is right out, as is making cash from 'drugs and drug paraphernalia' and 'counterfeit currency and stamps'. No surprises there then, and it's not as if you really need to be told.

However, the list of banned items is lengthy, and some of what you can't sell is a little less obvious. For instance, try to flog an unwanted airline ticket and you'll see your auction pulled. The reason being that you can't sell plane flights unless you have an ATOL number. Reselling football tickets is also a legal minefield, and one that eBay has decided to avoid by banning the sale of any tickets for matches in England and Wales.

But considering there are thousands of items being sold on eBay every day, you might think it pretty unlikely that the powers that be will ever spot banned items being sold. You'd be wrong. The site's staff is on the ball when it comes to picking off members posting up items that are against the rules. On top of that, there are also the massed ranks of eBay regulars, who don't take kindly to rogue traders trying to ruin things for everyone. Every eBayer has access to an item-reporting screen, where anything that goes against policy can be flagged up for the staff to deal with. If you see anything you think qualifies, go to to report it.

Don't worry though. We all make mistakes; if you put something up for sale without realising it contravenes the rules, eBay will simply take the item down and give you a warning. Persistent offenders, however, will quickly find themselves booted off the site for good. To acquaint yourself with what's okay and what's not, take a look at

Check your item

01: What can you sell - The quickest way to check whether your item can be sold on eBay is to go to This page has a long list of the items you can't sell, as well as those that can only be sold if they meet certain conditions.

02: Tell me more - Click on any of the banned categories and you'll get more details on the reasons why eBay prohibits these items from being sold. You'll also be able to find out whether your item is actually subject to these rules; as there are some that will not be.

03: 'ere we go - eBay is a ticket tout's dream, with thousands of tickets for gigs and events going under the hammer every week. But auctions for football tickets, like this one, are not allowed. Due to the regulations around football matches, this auction will be pulled.

04: Plane wrong - Are you a registered travel agent? If not, and you don't have a valid ATOL number, then you can't sell airplane tickets on eBay. It doesn't matter whether you're looking to make a profit or not; your auction will be taken offline quicker than you can say '747'.

05: Get rich quick - The bane of email Inboxes across the world, get-rich-quick schemes are (thankfully) also banned from eBay. That doesn't stop people trying though and you'll often see these 'deals' pop up briefly. Do everyone a favour and report one if you see it.

06: Up in smoke - Unsurprisingly, the sale of cigarettes is also banned on eBay. Tobacco is one of those grey areas though; and if the item you're selling is collectable packaging that happens to have baccy in it, then you'll be okay.

David Bradforth