eBay is introducing a speedy-delivery subscription program - initially only in Germany - called eBay Plus that promises free, express shipping and free returns on many items.

eBay has been testing the program since at least May and already has had thousands of sellers signing up to be part of it, according to Worldwide Vice President of Shipping Carl Gish. As an extra incentive for sellers to become part of the service, they may receive a 15 percent reduction on their listing fees and "improved product-listing placement." The program's $22 annual fee helps pay for shipping and returns, which are normally covered by the customer.

eBay's new service puts it up against Amazon's own speedy-delivery program, Amazon Prime, which charges $99 a year and offers unlimited two-day deliveries alongside other perks such as streaming videos and music.

The new service could help the online retailer become more reliable for consumers by requiring sellers to ship items on the same day if they are ordered before 2 p.m. Slow or missing deliveries have often made people dubious about using eBay over other e-commerce sites.

Gish said that eBay Plus is intended to increase buying and selling activity on eBay, rather than generate a new revenue stream through subscription fees. He declined to say when or if the program will expand beyond Germany, saying the company will focus first on executing the rollout there.

The news comes after eBay announced yesterday that it was rolling out an updated version of its app for iOS and Android. The eBay 4.0 update introduces a more simplified UI and a number of customization options for sellers.

eBay Plus will launch throughout Germany in mid-September.