eBay finds fault in their systems: Changes of address may soon be possible again


It has been almost six months of constant effort but there are now good news after all: eBay sent word this week that they have presumably found a fault in their systems, which has been responsible for a problem where users of mailbox.org and those of a dozen other e-mail providers were unable to perform a change of address in their eBay accounts.

We were told by internal sources at eBay that a bug-fix would be put in place soon; within a few days. However, when we checked this morning, we didn’t notice any difference yet – the eBay platform still seems to be losing e-mails; Any users affected by this will have to wait just a little longer and remain patient until the problem is, hopefully very soon, resolved.

In the last few weeks we spent a considerable amount of time on the eBay issue, and tried to keep things quiet on the public front, in order not to complicate the matter any further. We have been in frequent, weekly touch with extremely helpful and committed eBay staff (who also happen to be mailbox.org users). These people have worked tirelessly to involve the relevant departments and convince decision-makers within the eBay organisation to support a bug-hunt on their platform.

This has not been an easy process. As anyone can imagine, an industry giant like eBay is at first unlikely to pay any attention to an insignificant German e-mail provider that claims their mail delivery system is faulty. Any such reports would not be taken seriously by their front-line support staff, and generally ignored or played down. For many months, eBay support has pushed away the problem and told their customers any e-mails lost weren’t their responsibility, blaming the affected target providers (like us) instead. Needless to say, the resulting support enquiries caused considerable labor and cost at our end. Unfortunately, we also experienced cases where some of our customers became angry over this situation and cancelled their mailbox.org subscription because they had lost their trust in our service and technical competence.

In the meantime, eBay started carrying out systematic tests on their systems. Since around Easter this year, they were sure that there was something wrong, and that they were in fact losing some of their confirmation e-mails: Not just those sent to mailbox.org but also to other providers. There was evidence that certain messages didn’t even leave their systems in the first place. For many months, nobody knew why and when this error actually occurred. Progress was very slow – which is not very surprising, considering eBay is a large corporation. Any decisive action would have required the US headquarters to become involved, who needed to recognise the problem and take it seriously, which they didn’t do at first, it seems.

It was only after mailbox.org recently threatened to push for a solution by going public with the issue and pressing for a legal injunction in case the problem was not resolved until the end of July, that things started moving a bit quicker. We generally prefer diplomacy and cooperation over such action but after many months of fruitless effort, we felt that this was our last resort.

Shortly afterwards, we started to see changes. For example, ebay support now informed their customers that there was no issue at mailbox.org but at eBay, and that they were currently analysing the problem. Only a few days later, and they were successful in tracking down the bug: We were told that the problem had been found and a patch was on its way to be rolled out on the eBay platform within a matter of days.
We remain hopeful that this problem will now be resolved speedily. Even though it took a long time to get to a result, we did very much appreciate the collaboration with our contacts at eBay. Some part of us was almost looking forward to having to visit the eBay headquarters in the US, but now it seems we won’t go on this trip any time soon.

In any case, we prefer the situation as it’s now played out – provided the whole drama will actually be over soon. We will keep you posted!