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Your eBay & eCommerce Questions Answered (#3)

March 14, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 5 Comments
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questions-answers-3Hello & Welcome!

It’s Friday again which means time for another of our weekly Questions & Answers session. Thanks for all the questions you have sent in this week. I can’t publish them all as that would take too much time but I have tried to pick out the best and most interesting ones to share with everyone else.

Today we’ll cover:

  • Can I Import copyrighted iPhone cases from China?
  • Can I use FileZilla WITHOUT owning a hosting account?
  • Can I import from China being an individual, not a company?
  • Is Western Union a safe payment method?
  • Company refuses inspection before I send money to them!?
  • How to minimize the risk of getting your PayPal and eBay accounts banned?

If you have a question you would like me to answer in future Q&As, get in touch with me here.

Please note: I do not edit or alter your questions in any way as I want them to remain authentic and exactly how they were sent to me, so please excuse any small grammar or spelling mistakes.

Let’s get started!

Hi Andrew,

I have purchased iPhone cases that I believe to hold copyright and be trademarked and was wondering if you could help me and provide me with some information into them.

I was inquiring if you could do some research into them for me, and confirm whether they are or not? The iPhone cases are of Disney characters however they was not made by the original manufacturer therefore I wanted to know if they have the right to produce those products?

These characters include: Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Ironman, Captain America and Perry the Platypus from Disney programme Phineas & Ferb.

The iPhone cases take the image of these characters and I was wondering if you know if those characters have a trademark against them due to them being intellectual property.

Would really appreciate a reply.

Many Thanks,

Hi Chad,

I have already covered this topic several times on my blog but feel obliged to do another post on this as I still receive similar questions to what Chad has asked on a regular basis. I really feel sorry for all those people wasting money on such items and importing goods from China that are ILLEGAL and cannot be resold.

Batman, Superman, Spiderman and all other Disney/Hollywood characters are of course trademarked and these designs are all protected. Not only can you not use the Batman logo for example or the name – even similar names can and will cause problems, like in a recent lawsuit where a company was prohibited from using the name Batsman – as it’s too similar to Batman.

It’s a well known fact that IP rights are not properly protected in China; hence you find all these fake products being sold freely. It doesn’t stop with iPhone cases – a copy of almost everything is produced in China, including sports cars that look exactly like a Ferrari. It seems that the Chinese government doesn’t care about this as otherwise there would be some more strict rules and laws in place by now.

To manufacture iPhone covers with brand names, Disney characters and similarly protected content, a manufacturer would have to obtain a licence from the IP holder and pay royalty fees. While there are of course legit companies who do this, I’m afraid you won’t find them on Alibaba.

Suppliers on Alibaba simply take these designs and use them in production without paying any royalty fees, making these products illegal.

So I’m afraid you’re stuck with your purchase Chad and can’t sell these items online or offline for that matter.

What you can try to do is contact your supplier and maybe arrange a deal where you send these products back in exchange them for items WITHOUT any copyrighted designs on them? Obviously you’ll lose on shipping but at least you’ll get rid of this stock and get something you can actually re-sell in return.

And for the future – just STAY away from importing ANY kind of branded items from China. This includes items with:

  • Brand logos on them (Apple, Sony, Nike etc.)
  • Cartoon Characters (Batman, Spiderman, Ironman etc.)
  • Musicians & Bands (Michael Jackson, One Direction etc.)

Just don’t deal with such items and import only plain, unbranded (or your own brand) products.

Obviously, this does not only apply to iPhone covers. ANY kind of product that contains a protected image/logo/name is prohibited and should be avoided at all costs.

I’ve got an eBay account but don’t have my own website. Would I still be able to use FileZilla to upload images to my eBay listings? If not, is there any other way I can upload images to my listings without charge?

No, you can’t use FileZilla without having your own hosting account. FileZilla is a desktop software that simply connects your computer to your hosting account via FTP. So no, it can’t work without a hosting account.

If you absolutely can’t afford 5 pounds per month for your own hosting account, you have 2 alternatives:

  • Use eBay’s picture hosting. eBay now offers 12 free images with every listing so you can host images there. The downside of this is that you won’t be able to easily insert them inside your listing description using Turbo Lister plus of course you won’t be able to change them once the listing goes live.
  • Use free image hosting services such as Photobucket. They’re free, simple to use and will do the job if you’re just starting out. Once you upload an image using such a service, you’ll get a link to that image which you can then insert inside your listing description using eBay’s interface or Turbo Lister.The downside to using these free services is that most of them have a limited bandwidth allowance – which means – if your listing gets really popular and gains many views, they could remove your images. And just like with eBay hosted images, you won’t be able to easily change them once the listing is live.

All in all, I would definitely still recommend getting your own hosting account for maximum flexibility and safety. Plus when you have your own hosting account, you can use a personalised email address, put together a simple blog or website and host your own custom made template as well.

I want to import clothes from China; I’d like to use sea freight to ship my goods to UK. But I don’t have own company yet. Can any big company to help with this issue?

So my goods go to that big company and once arrived, the company staff arrange to deliver to me. By the way, I heard there are some custom blockers can help to declare custom taxes instead of myself, maybe I’m wrong.

That’s perfectly fine – you don’t need to be a COMPANY to import products from China. It doesn’t even matter whether you use courier or sea freight – in both cases you can import from China as an individual just fine.

If you use a courier, they’ll take care of customs clearance and send you an invoice for VAT, import duty and a small customs clearance fee.

In the case of sea freight, you’ll want to use a freight forwarding company (such as Woodland Global) who will again take care of the whole customs clearance procedure and just bill you for taxes and their service fee.

So in either situation, all you have to do is pay the final invoice which will include any tax due, and the goods will be delivered to your door – and the procedure is no different whether you’re an individual or company.

I have read your article on how not to get scammed on Alibaba.

I ordered a quantum analyser. The lady that helped me is a 2 year gold. She is very helpful and even phoned me a few times to sort some stuff. She advised me to pay with western union since it s faster. She did give me their company bank details- marry beauty when I asked about a TT through Escrow.

She did say that they are currently experiencing problem through pay pal. Is it the best then to rather do a payment with TT through Escrow?

How will I know how long it will take for my stuff to come?

NEVER EVER pay for goods you’re importing from China via Western Union! I have said this many times over but still feel it needs to be repeated!

Western Union can be only used to pay for samples, and even then only if you really trust the company you’re dealing with. But never for real orders or for any amount more than $50 or $100.

The problem with Western Union payments are:

  • It’s non reversible – this means once you send the money, it’s GONE! No one can reverse a WU payment so there’s no protection for you as a buyer whatsoever!
  • It won’t go to a company! WU payments are sent to INDIVIDUALS and not companies. So you don’t even know whether your payment will reach the company OR will it end up in the pocket of that sales rep you were chatting with.

To sum it up – stay away from Western Union at all costs! If a supplier doesn’t accept any other form of payment, simply look for another supplier.

I contacted a supplier on Global Sources; I want to buy some raw materials from them.

When I contacted them they send me an email with their quotation. I know they are verified supplier but for extra precautions I said I want to do the inspection of your factory by a third party.

The sales representative agreed for inspection but when I arranged for inspection and when the inspection company contacted them, the sales representative said that I have to pay them at least $1000 before inspecting their factory.

I tried to convince her to show the factory first but she refused by saying it’s their company’s` policy. I want to know whether it is safe to pay to this company or they are just simply a spam.

Please give me some advice.

RUN AWAY from them as fast as you can!

A factory that requires an order BEFORE you can verify them is nothing more than a SCAM!

Imagine a situation where you want to enter a brick and mortar shop but they ask you to pay $20 BEFORE you can even take a look? It’s something simply unheard of.

If they’re real and have nothing to hide, they’ll be more than happy to accept the inspection without any fuss at all.

So just don’t bother with them anymore and look for other suppliers who are happy with an inspection before you place an order.

Hi Andrew,

I read a lot of your post you submitted about selling on eBay. I’m considering starting my own eBay business. But I’m wary of connecting my PayPal to my eBay account.

I read that it can be pretty easy to have your account suspended from negative feedback, even if you’re a very trustworthy seller and your feedback average is up to 99%. If you have your eBay suspended then your PayPal account will also be suspended.

I really don’t want to risk that, because in the future I’m looking to sell from my own site along with eBay, and I want to be able have PayPal as a payment option.

I live in the US and I know people really love to rely PayPal when buying. I don’t want to lose a lot of potential buyers who want to use PayPal.

Are there any ways to sell on eBay and offer PayPal as a payment option without having your PayPal be at risk of being suspended?

Unfortunately there’s no real solution to this…

Yes, it’s true that PayPal and eBay track all accounts, link them and in the case of a BAN, most likely ALL accounts you own will be banned. At least that’s how it works now.

Hopefully in future they’ll ease up in this policy but for now – we just have to take this risk as there’s no real alternative – if you want to sell on eBay successfully, you’ll have to accept PayPal, there’s no way around this.

But you have to realise that it’s not all gloom and doom as some people portray online… Yes, sometimes eBay or PayPal ban accounts for no apparent reason but from my experience I can say that in most cases the SELLERS did something wrong – either they breached listing policies, sold counterfeit goods or simply didn’t offer the level of customer service required by eBay.

So if you do everything by the book, stay away from risky items, and work FOR your customers, the chance of getting your account banned is very slim. Also, usually eBay will first warn you about any problems with your account, then they often place some restrictions or suspend you – a permanent ban is quite rare and only a last resort.

I have been using various eBay and PayPal accounts for more than 10 years now, without a single issue.

One final point – even if you do get your PayPal account banned, you can always use 3rd party payment processors for your eCommerce shop and can of course take payments that way.

Hope this helps!

Thanks for all your questions so far and if there’s anything you need my help with, feel free to get in touch with me here.

Enjoy your weekend!


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  1. And by the way, I send between China and France (Amazon warehouse), everytime around 25Kilo by courrier and I never pay any tax or anything (except the shipping fees of course)

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Franck,

      You should know that that’s ILLEGAL and basically tax evasion which can lead to serious consequences.

      If you’re importing on such regular basis, do regular business, you should be fully aware of this and pay VAT and import duty where applicable.


      1. I know, but it’s not illegal, I write the value of the product on the shipping paper and everytime it arrived in the custom it’s not needed to pay tax, if they want me to pay tax they would do it when the packet arrive in France.

      2. Andrew Minalto

        if the value is below VAT/import duty threshold, then it’s not illegal, no.

        I just doubt that a 25kg package’s value is just 20 or 30 EUR?

        As you import as a business, you’re OBLIGATED to declare such imports and pay taxes, even if they slip through the customs without a charge. Otherwise you even can’t book such imports properly in accounting.


  2. Hi,
    I actually live in Shenzhen China (very close to Hong Kong), and sell on Amazon FR only with FBA, and I don’t buy product from Alibaba or any wholeseller like that, I prefer go to some very popular chinese website (because I can write and speak chinese) or even directly go to the warehouse to discuss the price directly, and i was thinking start to sell on ebay in Europe directly from Hong Kong so basically be in competition with Chinese seller on eBay, if you have any advise for me it would be great.
    I just find your website few days ago, and it’s very interesting, except I am french (sorry for my english) and many of your advise is about UK (fullfiment, warehouse, shipping …) but I still appreciate all your advise (I register on etoro, let’s see how it works) If you or anyone is interesting to visit South China (Canton, Shenzhen or Hong Kong) for business or anything else, contact me, i can certainly help with suppliers .

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