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What is a Consumer-To-Consumer Website?

Lainie Petersen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A consumer-to-consumer website, also known as a peer-to-peer website or C2C website, facilitates the sale or transfer of goods and services between individuals. While some of the participants in a consumer-to-consumer website also have other business venues, such as an e-commerce website for brick-and-mortar store, they may use a C2C website to expand their customer base. Other users of consumer-to-consumer websites may be individuals who are simply trying to sell or give away a product and are not normally engaged in retail sales or the offering of professional services. These sites are often distinguished by the use of a review-based honor system in which users can rate their transaction experience, thus warning or encouraging other users in their dealings with vendors.

The sponsor of the consumer-to-consumer website is a third-party in the transaction between two individuals. Common types of C2C websites include online auctions and storefronts, online notice or classified ad boards, and peer-to-peer lending services. Consumers use these services for a variety of reasons; in some cases, small business owners include consumer-to-consumer website sales as one of their marketing strategies, as generating traffic to a small business website is difficult without a high advertising budget. An online auction with millions of visitors and a good search engine can be a good form of publicity and a way to introduce their products to a larger audience. Consumers also may be looking for a bargain and figure they have a better chance of getting a cheap new or used item from a private individual than from a retail store.

Consumer-to-consumer storefront sites are another way for small businesses and craftspeople to market their wares. These sites provide individual websites and, in many cases, e-commerce capabilities, to artisans and small business people, who pay either a small upfront fee or a percentage of sales transactions to participate in the site. In return, the owners of the storefront site maintain and promote the website to the general public, bringing in new customers for shopkeepers.

Another type of of consumer-to-consumer website is the online classified ad site for posting notices about items, often used, that are being sold or given away by their owners. These sites may even provide anonymous email systems so users can communicate with each other about a transaction without displaying identifying information in an ad. Online classified sites may be general in nature, or may have a special focus, such as "freecycling" sites that do not permit sales of items, only trades or give-aways.

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Lainie Petersen
By Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an editor. With a unique educational background, she crafts engaging content and hosts podcasts and radio shows, showcasing her versatility as a media and communication professional. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any media organization.
Discussion Comments
By letshearit — On Dec 11, 2011

@lonelygod - If you need consumer help I would suggest doing your best to talk with someone at the business you are dealing with. Don't just e-mail them, call their customer support line.

Sometimes companies have a strict no refund policy, and that should be published on their webpage. If you call though, you may be able to get a refund if you offer to return the item and promise not to use complaint websites against the company.

I think there can be a lot of misunderstanding with consumer-to-consumer websites, so you should do your best to talk things out first. The business is still someone's livelihood.

By lonelygod — On Dec 10, 2011

If you have trouble with a consumer-to-consumer site what kind of consumer rights do you have?

I have been shopping online from small businesses and trying to support the little guy as it were, but I've run into some hassles with one business and am wondering if it is mandatory for them to give me a refund, or if I have to do the exchange they are requesting.

I haven't seen an consumer ratings on their site, but if the problems keep up I am definitely going to find one of those consumer complaint websites to rant to. I don't like feeling ripped off.

By EdRick — On Dec 10, 2011

@ElizaBennett - There are similar sorts of forum websites for computer games, car parts, all sorts of things, that also have swap threads.

I've found that most users are honest. I've actually never had a bad experience, though I've heard of people who have. The most trouble I've had is with books. People do not always abide by the conditions set down by, for instance, Amazon Marketplace, and they will describe something as "Very Good" that has highlighting in it! I make sure to always check the person's feedback to make sure that they have a reputation for describing things accurately.

By ElizaBennett — On Dec 09, 2011

Another type that I've used is forums. For instance, BabyCenter has swap forums where users can post used cloth diapers, baby slings, etc.

One disadvantage is that you don't have as many consumer protections as with a big, well-known site like eBay. If you use PayPal, though, you do still have that going for you. (*Never* let someone talk you into calling a PayPal payment a "gift." That saves the recipient from having to pay a small fee, but it will keep you from being able to complain if the item is not shipped.)

The advantage is that the forums are more focused. It's not as hard to find out if what you want is available as it is with a larger, full-service site.

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an...
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