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Craigslist Rival OfferUp Told Users One Thing About Safety. The Fine Print Said the Opposite.

They've now changed it, but it was in the TOS for years.

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Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

One new Craigslist competitor is trying to convince consumers that its online community is safe — a not-so-subtle attempt at differentiation from the 20-year-old leader in online classifieds. One problem: In the Terms of Service for the app, the startup stated it could not live up to its promise.

The popular app in question, OfferUp, has run a program called TruYou for three years that allows people buying and selling stuff on the app to earn a special badge by linking their Facebook accounts to the app and handing over a form of ID and a selfie photo to OfferUp. This is how the program was described on the OfferUp app until Re/code inquired about the language yesterday.

“Everyone feels more comfortable knowing who stands behind an offer,” it read. “With the TruYou program, you share specific information with OfferUp that verifies you are truly you.” Emphasis mine.

But here’s how OfferUp, the second-most popular iPhone shopping app in the U.S., describes TruYou in its Terms of Service section:

“The TruYou badge does not designate … we have verified that a user with a TruYou badge is the person that they claim to be, (b) that a user is in fact the person identified in any personal identification document that a user has provided to us.” Emphasis mine again.

Well, that sure sounds different!

A rep for OfferUp said that the language in the messaging to consumers had been changed on the OfferUp website “months” ago but that the company was waiting to change the language in the app until the next planned app update. The new TruYou language, which was added to the app Thursday after I brought it to the startup’s attention, simply says, “This gives others an increased sense of trust in doing business with you.”

The case highlights the trouble that a new breed of online-meets-real-world marketplaces can run into when they try to instill trust between strangers that is critical to making their business work. Airbnb, for example, offers a similar program called Verified ID. In the case of OfferUp, however, its promise to users didn’t match reality.

I’m not quite sure what to make of the company’s explanation. Several app updates happened without the language changing between the time OfferUp says it changed the language on the website and when it finally updated on the app.

Additionally, you can only join the TruYou program through the app, which is the centerpiece of the company, so one would think if the language were going to be changed, it would have happened in the app first or at least at the same time as the website.

Either way, the Terms of Service description does make sense; it’s hard to imagine the company can 100 percent guarantee someone behind a keyboard is who they say they are. But then the company shouldn’t be making its users think that’s the case.

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