eBay UK's big announcement: mandatory free P&P expanded, easier returns

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eBay UK have finally made their biannual announcement of changes affecting sellers for spring 2009. Much of the content is the same as the eBay.com announcement made earlier this week, but there are a few tweaks just for the UK.

Free P&P in lots more categories

As of 15th June, sellers in selected categories in Video Games, Mobile & Home Phones, Consumer Electronics, Computing, Photography, and Clothes, Shoes & Accessories will be required to offer free P&P as their first domestic postage option. Currently, this doesn’t apply to all the subcategories of each of those sections, so do read the full list on eBay’s page; for CSA, for example, only the accessories’ subcategories and clothing & shoe care are included.

eBay are sweetening the pill very slightly by offering a 20% Final Value Fee discount to sellers in those categories; we’d hope to see this made a permanent offer, otherwise eBay will rightly be accused of making extra profit on those included P&P charges.

As with other free P&P categories, sellers will be free to offer other, pay-for shipping options.

“Easier returns”

A new returns process will make it easier for buyers to say they want to return an item, and for sellers to process that return.

  • Buyers who pay with PayPal will see a return link (presumably in My eBay) for 35 days after purchase. Note that this is longer than the eBay minimum of 14 days to return an item.
  • When a return is requested, sellers will receive an email alert and have the opportunity to accept or reject the return.
  • Sellers will be able to set a separate returns address and specify a default message to be shown to buyers returning goods.
  • Sellers will be able to refund payment and reclaim FVFs from the same place.

Only items paid for with PayPal will be included in the new returns’ process. We’ll be looking more at returns and the handling of them in the next few days.

eBay Resolutions comes to the UK

eBay UK will have its own version of the eBay Resolutions dispute process revealed on .com earlier in the week. Substantially the same as the current PayPal dispute process, this will roll out over “coming months” and is expected to be available on all transations by Christmas 2009. Intriguingly, eBay UK actually mention that “we will also better monitor and prevent buyer fraud or abuse”, so perhaps those serial lost-in-the-post claimants will be less ready to claim in future.

Variant listings and changes to the choice policy

As announced by Mark Lewis at Catalyst, and as per eBay.com, from 15th June variant listings will be available in the adults’ shoes categories. In “late summer” (Mark said July 15th, so it seems the schedule’s already slipped), the feature will be expanded to selected Clothes, Shoes & Accessories categories, and Home & Garden categories. There’s no mention at all of the rest of eBay in this; I’ve heard roll-out side-wide in 2010 mentioned, but for now, that seems to be just a rumour.

Free photos in Clothing, Shoes & Accessories

CSA sellers will now get free Gallery Plus, Picture Pack, Supersize and additional pictures. With the new view item page pushing seller-generated content further down the page, having more pictures above the fold should be a plus.

A new Copy Web Files tool will make it easier for sellers to import pictures from another web server into eBay Picture Services; scroll to the bottom of this page for the current scanty details. We’ll be watching with interest to see if eBay will just allow the import of any pictures from the internet, or whether they’ll require an FTP connection to the server in question to prove legitimate use.

Smart Answers actually are smart!

There’s more information on how the new Smart FAQs will work; I’m particularly liking the idea that eBay could answer questions for me:

As you’ll have already provided the information about your item to eBay, we use that information to answer your buyers’ questions. This information includes item details, P&P information and transactional details. As long as your item details are up-to-date and accurate, eBay can accurately answer questions for you. For example, if a buyer asks “Do you ship to country X?” we check the shipping destinations provided by you and send the buyer an answer.

As ever, this won’t suit all sellers (you might want to except buyers from your normal requirements, after all) but for some, it will be exceedingly useful.

More product pages

Not quite so extensive through the media categories as on .com, but expect to see product pages expanded in Movies & DVDs, Music, Mobile Phones, Consoles, Digital Cameras and Camcorders.

Category changes

Changes to some subcategories of CSA, H&G and Collectables. More details on these in early May (so much for 60 days’ notice!). The Cars, Parts & Vehicles category will be split into two categories: Vehicles and Parts.

So, good, bad or indifferent? How will the changes affect your business? Leave us a comment.

16 Responses

  1. Re the webfile upoad, I have just tried it

    We’ll be watching with interest to see if eBay will just allow the import of any pictures from the internet

    Yes, it appears any web url works, though bear in mind, when used and where applicable, additional images beyond the initial first image free, normal eBay fees will apply

  2. I would like to hear someone from eBay explain this, or at least offer their take on the situation:

    Why is the percentage of “lost in post” items so high for sales on eBay, when compared against sales on Amazon and your own website?

    As a seller, I know the item was posted, along with other items sold on our websites.

    We have NEVER had an item go missing from a sale on our websites, but sales on eBay….!

  3. Smart FAQs & eBay ….Pull the other one 😆

    I hope there is an option to turn that off. 😐

  4. Yes I’m rather dubious about that one in practice, Whirly!

    Another point is that sometimes when I’ve had over a thousand listings running an ASQ has been the first indication that there is (yet another) glitch with item specifics, postage, shipping to areas or some other aspect of the listing. Smart ASQs would just perpetuate those glitches.

    I had a quick look yesterday and does look like it is optional – for now anyway!

  5. we’ve had SMART faq’s for nearly a year…. via hostedsupport. See user id xcr_gb and try asking a question on an open item.

  6. “From 15th June sellers listing in selected categories in Video Games, Mobile & Home Phones, Consumer Electronics, Computing, Photography, and Clothes, Shoes & Accessories will be required to offer free P&P as their first domestic postage option.”

    We are an international seller but we are not based in UK …does this “mandatory free domestic shipping” apply to us?

    My understanding is we have to offer free shipping to UK as our shipping to UK is considered as “domestic” by eBay. International shipping just means to the rest of the world.

    Any one any better explanation please?

  7. Ive looked at the return process and it shocks me, will people be able to return any item that specifically says “no returns” described correctly etc. I sell IT equipment, if i cant test it it says i have been unable to test. Normally starts at 99p and see where it ends up.

    By the way, its not some way to sell broke equipment and say its untested. Printers and projectors are my main one for this type of sale. I dont have the ink or the correct bulb.

    It always says no returns on this, its an auction so isnt covered by DSRs. 95% of these sales go well, they normally work and the person biding has got a bargain. Im concerned that these type of sales will be affected by “easy returns”

    I also go to real life auctions and know how it works with those items taking a risk with IT equipment as every piece of IT cannot be fully tested.

    most of the other things in the announcment dont affect me directly, i can see the amazonification x 2 hapening.

  8. @ Barry

    Thanks. I’ll try your smart FAQ. We have enabled this feature, but seems it doesn’t work well.

  9. I took a decision a couple of years ago to send all items above £10 recorded delivery….interestingly none of these items have complaints of ‘non-arrival’. now items under £10 sent via 1st class standard – 20-30% have claims of ‘non-arrival’…its my opinion that a % of these arrive, and family members take them in and dont inform the buyer of the item, a % is fraudulent – i.e. people abusing the paypal system and % are at the postal depot, and they never receive the RM card – mainly as they live in flats etc.

    I am now moving to a RM business account, and using Royal Mail Tracked, which is a cost effective system with full tracking for a very low price. Thing is you need a Royal Mail business account and need to pay £450 upfront for a collections service (unless you can prove £15,000 of RM postal receipts / annum).

    Smart FAQ – great to just tell the customer – please read the listing, not just the title and gallery image….the amount of questions we receive asking for info that on the page….grrrrrrr

    Free postage on clothing is not a good move….i estimate it will cost me £2000 a month if I dont adjust my prices. Luckily its not in my sub category at the moment. Its probably the biggest business critical decision ebay have made….and could send people into serious losses if they dont manage their margins. Also it does not reward sellers (like me) who offer a next day service as standar. I would be forced to offer a poor standard service (4-5 day delivery) for free and then a premium service as my 2nd choice (chargeable). It goes against all the work I have done to negotiate with suppliers for fast, reliable postage at a competitive price. I generally agreee with most ebay decisions, and adjust my business …but clothing can be heavy to post, and it not something I can just send for free and absorb.

    In Germany, domestic postage has been fixed at Euro 7.00 – this I think is a better idea….cap the top end postage costs, then the buyer is never over charged…

  10. This change:

    “How does this new eBay Resolution process work?

    If a buyer has been unsuccessful in working directly with a seller, the buyer can contact eBay. An experienced Customer Support representative reviews the case, examining transaction details such as item description, buyer and seller track record, seller location, payment, and postage & packaging details. If the buyer’s claim warrants further investigation, eBay will contact the seller.

    The seller will have a certain number of business days to do one or more of the following:

    * In cases where the buyer claims the item was not received, provide proof of delivery (using the same methods required by PayPal currently)
    * In cases where the buyer claims the item was not as described, provide proof that it was (using the same methods required by PayPal currently)
    * Or, resend or replace the item, or refund the buyer………….”

    ONE BIG thing that needs to be done is NOT to blame the seller when a tracking system shows that the courier has attempted to deliver an item, and the buyer declines to pick it up , or rejects the parcel.. In this situation, the buyer should not be refunded postage costs, but under distance selling regs can gain a refund of the shop price – fine with that.

    The seller should be allowed to apply a strike for a buyer who after infoming that their item is at the depot, fails to pick it up within 3 working days.

  11. FREE pics for CSA – great stuff….it will save all the hassle of hosting pics, then having to copy HTML into listings….what I dont want to happen is have 5000 listings then ebay decide to charge later down the line…. it would be nice to clarify that old listings on GTC never get charged for pics should the policy change in the future…minor point but worthy of clarification.



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