Bill Cobb, president of eBay's US arm, unveiled details of the trial scheme last night in which sellers will be encouraged to include 'Skype Me' links on auctions in 14 eBay categories, including cars, property, jewellery and certain collectables.
From 19 June interested buyers can click the link in the 'Ask a seller a question' area of an auction page. The free feature allows people to speak instantly via voice call, text message or video conference call.
EBay hopes that by discussing item specs, delivery arrangements or other details in real time, buyer and seller will experience a safer and easier transaction.
"Skype represents a tremendous opportunity for our sellers to connect even more closely with their buyers," Cobb said in a statement.
EBay paid £2.2bn for Skype last year but has been cautious about incorporating Skype's free voice-over IP service into its core business until now.
The scheme is expected to be introduced to eBay sites in the UK and Germany soon. Skype links are already included in 25 per cent of listings on eBay Eachnet in China, and has been trialled in some European countries including Belgium.
EBay chief executive Meg Whitman said at the firm's Analyst Day in San José in May that the average selling price of items sold through Chinese auctions that include Skype is twice as high as those without the VoIP service.
Skype claims 100 million users worldwide, with 13 million in China alone. But take-up in the US has been slower than expected, and eBay's 'Skype Me' scheme is seen as a way of boosting its VoIP service in the US market.
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