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What eBay’s certification partnership means for resellers

Company sign for eBay at company HQ.

U.S. remarketers now have the option of having Phonecheck evaluate and produce reports on their devices sold through the eBay Refurbished program. | Michael Vi/Shutterstock

One of the world’s biggest e-commerce channels, eBay, has launched a program allowing refurbishers to sell Phonecheck-certified devices through the platform. One expert explained what the development means for remarketers.

Last month, eBay announced a partnership with Los Angeles-based mobile device certification provider Phonecheck, which uses advanced software to evaluate and pull device history data for a device – essentially a Carfax for refurbished electronics.

To compete with certification programs from other online refurbished electronics marketplaces, including Amazon’s Renewed program, San Jose, Calif.-based eBay launched its eBay Refurbished program. The program provides assurance to consumers that the devices they buy are in a condition that matches their stated grade (the grades are certified, excellent, very good and good).

U.S. remarketers now have the option of having Phonecheck evaluate and produce reports on their devices sold through the eBay Refurbished program.

In an interview with E-Scrap News, Laura Homar, certification program manager at Phonecheck, said Phonecheck’s certification is allowing resellers to sell their electronics for 5% to 10% higher prices than non-certified devices.

“It’s really helpful to be able to deliver, instantaneously, the kind of information that informs both pricing and value,” she said.

The announcement came shortly after Phonecheck in April inked a deal with Back Market, a fast-growing online marketplace for used devices. Phonecheck’s other customers include musicMagpie, Swappa, ecoATM, B-Stock and Amazon Renewed.

How the device reporting works

Founded in 2010, Phonecheck’s software communicates with multiple applications or websites to display information about a device, such as repair history, authenticity of components and replacement parts, the presence of software locks, carrier information, battery health, financial background, whether the phone was reported stolen or lost, and dozens of other data points. The third-party certification provider does this by simultaneously evaluating a device that’s been plugged into a system and pulling information on that device from databases, using the phone’s unique International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number to identify the device. In the process, the software also erases the phone data.

Homar said Phonecheck will produce reports with up to 80 data points in under a minute. Generally, the most important ones for refurbishers are battery life and whether the microphone, speaker and screen are working, she said.

Currently, Phonecheck is available for Apple and Android phones and tablets. Other device types are expected to be added in the future, she said.

Phonecheck doesn’t set standards for used electronics; rather, it gathers data to see whether the device meets standards set by others, including eBay. In that way, it’s more akin to a certification body checking a processing facility to determine whether it meets e-Stewards or R2 standards, rather than a standards administrator itself.

In emailed responses to questions from E-Scrap News, Sarah Sternau, general manager of hard goods for eBay, said the Phonecheck certification is optional for resellers under the eBay Refurbished label, but the certification is “intended to provide an added layer of trust for eBay Refurbished buyers.”

“Through the service, a version of which Phonecheck tailored specifically for our platform, sellers can opt in for an additional fee to accurately grade each device; this instills more confidence among shoppers because the item is guaranteed to work exactly as expected,” she said.

Sternau said eBay can’t disclose the number of Phonecheck-certified devices sold through its platform, but she said “a majority of sellers use software of some kind in their quality control and grading processes.”

Robotic system now being offered

To run an evaluation, refurbishers plug devices into computers via USB connections; however, Phonecheck has also now partnered with a robotics provider to automate the diagnostic, cosmetic grading and background report process, Homar said. The robotic unit, which will be leased to customers, is capable of doing the work of eight manual processors, said Homar, who also noted it can detect visual defects better than the human eye can.

The company is shipping its first robot to a U.S. customer in the third quarter of this year, she said.

Homar noted that some individual consumers may never take the time to scan the Phonecheck barcode they receive to peruse the Phonecheck report for the device they purchase. Some just want to know that the evaluation has been done.

“We’re on a mission to instill trust through transparency for buyers and sellers and everyone in between,” Homar said. “We’re here for all parties to increase efficiency, value and trust.”

When asked if eBay intends at some point to make Phonecheck certification mandatory for phones sold through eBay, Sternau noted that vetting and grading isn’t necessary for every device sold through eBay, because shoppers have different needs and expectations.

“Anecdotally, the first item ever sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer, and the buyer was on the hunt for a low-cost DIY repair project,” she wrote.

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