eBay's new dispute resolutions process in action

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In eBay’s announcements of site changes last week, one of the things promised was more direct involvement in disputes between buyers and sellers. Just a couple of days after the announcement was made, the new system was already being rolled out. I heard from a TameBay reader we’ll call Tom, who had purchased a camera on eBay but had it delivered minus several of the promised components. Tom told me, “having got no joy from the seller and nearing the 45 day deadline, I went to PayPal to file a dispute, but was redirected to an eBay screen with a customer support number to call.”


The eBay rep said that eBay themselves would process a payment for the cost of the replacement parts, took Tom’s PayPal email, and sent him the cash! Tom comments: “as a buyer, it’s a much cleaner process to get resolution to a problem transaction. If they look to recover this from the seller, my concern would be the the level of safeguards built in to the process.”

Mine too. I asked eBay for some more information on exactly how this kind of refund would work: were they not encouraging some buyers to make fraudulent claims, and how – when it’s a buyer’s word against a seller’s – were they to judge who was right?

eBay told me they have a number of fraud checks in place, and will also look at buyer and seller history when getting involved in disputes. Perhaps most importantly, they will have access to claims history – something that sellers don’t currently have – so will presumably be able to see serial claimants.

As for the question of who is funding the refunds, “we may seek to recover the funds in the future – just as PayPal does today for all claims in the buyer’s favour”. The significant difference is, of course, that PayPal require a buyer to return the SNAD item to the seller, whereas eBay haven’t yet mentioned any such requirement; potentially this leaves the seller out of pocket for item plus refund.

Sellers will be given “a certain number of business days” to provide prove that the item *was* as described; if the seller doesn’t respond, then the buyer will “generally” be refunded and eBay will seek to reclaim the funds from the seller. eBay add:

We understand that there will be times where both buyer and seller may be right. In those cases eBay may absorb the cost to reimburse the buyer without any impact on the seller.

Over to you – is this the reassurance that buyers need, or just asking for trouble? Leave us a comment.

27 Responses

  1. I hate speaking on the phone. If eBay forces me to talk to them just to file a claim, forget it. What happened to automated systems? Other than calling a phone number and getting an instant response how is this much different than what PayPal offers now? Is one of their fraud prevention mechanisms one of those voice analyzers that detects lies?

    I’m going to assume the item has to returned to the seller because if it isn’t that would be outright theft. I can’t see eBay crossing that line.

  2. Sheesh! All these years of eBay being a faceless organisation and people complaining they don’t have a telephone number and as soon as they let you talk to them people complain about that as well! 😯

    They can’t win can they? 😀

  3. #2 ” They can’t win can they? 😀 ”

    £1.00 a minute premium rate number I bet 😆

    If it works as smoothly for everyone as it did for this chap sounds like a good idea to me.

    Couple of questions, what happended to the goods? how did eBay put a value on the missing parts? I assume they asked Tom if he wanted a full refund and in which case he would have to return the items recieved to the seller?

  4. What I don’t understand is the 45 days. For 44 days, the seller thought they had a good deal and now suddenly the buyer finds parts missing? Did they use it at all over the 45 days to try it out.

    A seller sells something for $100. Should they just put the $100 away for 45 days before finally deciding that it is theirs to use?

    And then there is the whole ‘Buyer’s Remorse’ topic brought up on the Ebay boards and the rumor that they will consider that a reason to ask for their money back. Buyer’s remorse at 44 days? I read a joke on one of the threads this morning how the sellers are simply renting their item for a few days.

    A seller is in a no-win situation sometimes.

  5. #4 Did eBay then contact the seller and claim the money back from him/her? If that is the case, then surely eBay should get the sellers take on the situation before giving any money to the buyer.

    Perhaps “Tom” misread the listing, who knows.

  6. One point I would like to make is that actually speaking to a real person to make a claim at eBay rather than a faceless paypal screen may be a deterrent. I think some may be less likely to lie their butt off and commit a fraudulent chargeback if they have to talk to a real person.

    Like a lot of the changes we’ll just have to wait and see again, no more fingers left to cross though.

  7. “eBay told me they have a number of fraud checks in place, and will also look at buyer and seller history when getting involved in disputes.”

    Anyone else supremely cynical about what sort of fraud checks are REALLY being used?

    Griff has admitted that Paypal currently uses a % of total transactions that end in disputes from a buyer to determine “abuse.” What he has not admitted or revealed is what that percentage may be: 50% ? 75% ? It must be a ridiculously high threshold as we’ve seen no anecdotal evidence of ANY buyer being flagged for excessive SNADs.

    There are no protections for sellers NOW. This new process will only make things worse.

    But according to Dinesh Lathi and Griff, those auto-lose SNAD claims can be appealed. Currently, that seems to be the only way to get a rep from Paypal to even look at a claim for low ASP items.

  8. This seems like a good step for eBay, but I do not know how scalable this will be in the future and how open it is to fraud. It seems to flip the protection favoring the buyer. Sites such as Wigix have always had a hands off approach with disputes as long as it is a Paypal payment, is that the right way to do it? Is that also why eBay plans on spinning off Paypal?

  9. #7 Think you could be right. We routinely contact every buyer by phone who opens a dispute (where their number on eBay is accurate). It’s surprising how many change their story when they can’t hide behing anonymous emails.

    But I am a bit concerned as I can’t see anywhere in the article that eBay contacted the seller to get his/her side of the story. If that’s the case, then this system could really be open to abuse.

  10. Welcome back Philip. In answer to your question I highly commend a read of “Not a license to shill“. Also I think (know!) you’ll find eBay have invested in lots of nice technology to catch out prolific shillers.

    Any chance that next time you post a comment you could have a new link though? That one didn’t get any comments when you posted it and it’s not getting any more interesting 18 months later.

  11. What I find strange is that eBay used to have a buyer protection programme, then closed that down, used that as a justification for introducing the compulsory use of PayPal, heavily promoted PayPal buyer protection and is now jettisoning that to return to buyer protection via eBay.

    I have my own theory as to the “logic” behind this. Others may have their own too.

  12. So just to be clear, eBay refunded the buyer out of their own pocket, right? The seller did not have to pay?

    If that’s the policy, well good. If the seller ever has to pay + lose product, then bad.

    Regardless of whether eBay paid or not, does the seller get any kind of strike against them?

    It’s interesting, but I think until eBay can make their wording on this more concrete they should be the ones footing the bill to stand by their new process.


  13. I agree, has to be more to the story I’m thinking. Would love to see something even semi-official from them in response. Until they do something which is potentially a positive is going to be perceived as train-wreck terrible.

  14. Savvy buyers won’t need to be given the info about NARU status, Sue. It’s visible on the site. They’d just have to look at the item page, the seller profile or any feedback they’ve left.

    According to the Vendio link Ina posted, that seller had a recent history of poor feedback. No further details on the other sellers.

    But in all cases, the sellers weren’t contacted and allowed to respond at all.

  15. Here’s one from another board of around two weeks ago.

    in Feb 2009 – we bought a 15″ flat screen from HK via eBay £105 incl postage from HK – turned up 10 days later – broken – liased with the seller – they instructed us in writing to send it back (via courier) which cost £43!

    After numerous e.mails back and forth – today we have still NOT received any refunds – just a load of 8u115h1t!!!

    So I start a PayPal dispute online – when all of a sudden an eBay page came up saying that I could either continue with the PayPal dispute or call eBay on their phone number.

    So I called em up – within 3 minutes the £105 was refunded PLUS a £20 voucher as a gesture of good will – WELL PLEASED.

    So now I am out by only £20’ish.

    What a nice start to the day!

    Thanks eBay – top drawer service!

  16. As an eBay drop off store, we sell unique, usually used items. We try our best to photograph and describe every aspect of the items but many buyers don’t even bother reading the listings anyway.



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