Campaign group proposes measures aimed at thwarting the thieves

The London Cycling Campaign (LCC), which recently launched its Beat The Thief initiative to combat bicycle theft in the capital, has invited the websites eBay and Gumtree to help in its efforts to stop online sales of stolen bikes.

LCC chief executive Koy Thompson, after speaking police contacts, has written to both websites to invite them to join discussions aimed at putting an end to thieves selling bikes that they have stolen via their sites.

LCC says that according to a recent survey it conducted, one in six cyclists in London had seen a stolen bike for sale on the internet, and it hopes that enlisting the help of eBay and Gumtree can help put an end to the practice.

Telltale signs that a bike is ‘hot’ include poor description, sometimes betraying a lack of familiarity with bicycles in general let alone the one on sale, vendors providing only a mobile phone number for contact and demanding payment in cash, and even pictures of bikes missing their front wheel.

LCC is proposing that the websites adopt a series of measures to help ensure that bicycles advertised for sale there are genuine, including:

  • “Adding a field for the frame number on web listings to discourage thieves
  • Demanding genuine photos, preventing vendors to disguise bikes with generic pictures
  • Stricter rules for vendor identification based on a verifiable name and address
  • A commitment to much faster response times from websites to police enquiries
  • Pro-active investigations by website owners, feeding suspicious listings to police.”

Mr Thompson said: "We've proposed quick and low-cost measures that websites can put in place to discourage dishonest vendors. We want buyers and police to able to clearly see who's open and upfront about who they are and what they're selling, which should help weed out the rogue sellers."

Meanwhile, LCC points out that anyone suspicious of the provenance of bikes for sale on either of the two websites can report the listing to the companies concerned, using the “report this ad” link above the picture on Gumtree, and the “report item” link to the right of the listing on eBay.

We've asked both eBay and Gumtree how they intend to help LCC in its efforts to prevent the sale of stolen bikes through their respective sites, and will let you know their responses once we have them.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.


G-bitch [327 posts] 7 years ago

Ebay don't give a toss about stolen goods - be interested to hear what the gumtree response is though.

Chuck [588 posts] 7 years ago

The frame number idea is a good one. Not sure how they'd tell whether a photo is genuine or not though...?

jova54 [676 posts] 7 years ago

I think the frame number suggestion is a bit of a red herring. How are you to know if the quoted number is genuine? There is no central database to refer to.

I have two bikes one is a Marin which has a frame number the other a Peugeot which does not, but it's a genuine bike and my property.

One thing that ebay could do is to prevent sellers with a rating under a set level selling items over a certain value, not the starting value but an estimated final selling value based on previous auctions. They also need to be more proactive in vetting adverts in high risk areas. Yes it will cost them money, but they make more than enough to cover the costs.

Do the normal rules of selling stolen goods not apply to on-line auction sites?

fluffy_mike [103 posts] 7 years ago

The frame number will have to be checked by the buyer for it to be effective

It's not the complete solution on its own, but it could be one way to shrink the stolen bike market

scotter [55 posts] 5 years ago

gumtree is owned by eBay; started as competition, then they ate it... they also own Paypal and several other auction related sites.