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bidStart Seller's Google Checkout Account Suspended by Google

Google Checkout suspends the payment transactions account of a major seller on collectibles auction site due to Google's misinterpretation of the UNESCO 1970 Convention

SICKLERVILLE, NJ - April 27, 2010 - Google Checkout has suspended the payment transaction account of a top seller in the online collectible marketplace, www.bidStart.com, claiming that selling United States stamps of over 100 years old is a violation of the UNESCO 1970 Convention. The convention can be somewhat misguiding as it does not directly prohibit these transactions, it merely suggests a country may ban the sale of postage stamps if they are recognized as cultural property, which the US explicitly does not. This being the case, Google Checkout is basing the suspension on a misinterpretation of the convention, and if this leads to other account suspensions it will force many bidStart sellers to rely primarily on PayPal for their online transactions, eliminating the popular option of having Google Checkout as an additional or primary payment method.

What prompted this trail of events? A major seller of stamps on www.bidStart.com received a generic email from the Google Checkout Team that the items posted were an "unacceptable product category" emphasizing that Google restricts the sale of stamps over 100 years old in accordance with the UNESCO 1970 Convention. As bidStart caters to a close community of collectors, the seller immediately brought the notice to the attention of Mark Rosenberg, President and CEO of bidStart, knowing this could affect other sellers.

After reviewing the matter in great detail as well as contacting several experts on UNESCO, Rosenberg provided the seller with a prepared response to Google clarifying the convention. "The US has made it clear that only items they ban by law are banned. So it is not in any way true that US postage stamps over 100 years old are prohibited by Google Checkout's terms and conditions since the UNESCO 1970 Convention does not prohibit these items. Additionally, most US postage stamps over 100 years old are still valid for postage, and thus cannot possibly be defined as artifacts." To watch Rosenberg drive this point home, go to: http://www.bidstart.com/unesco. bidStart's seller received the following reply from the Google Checkout Team, "The products or services you're selling on your website violate the following Google Checkout policy: Protected Cultural Items & Artifacts". No mention was made of understanding, reviewing, or taking into consideration the true interpretation of UNESCO. At this time, the seller's account remains suspended.

Rich Heimlich, bidStart's Director of Marketing, is taking this to heart. "The irony of this is that we're huge Google fans. Where other companies only offer PayPal we not only offer Google Checkout but recommend it. We also utilize Google ads on our site, use Google AdWords, place TV ads via Google, use Gmail for our corporate mail, have Android phones, use Google Docs, etc. We're sure they'd like to clear this up for our seller. We just need to help him connect with the right person at Google."
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