More details emerge on eBay's new buyer protection policies

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More details are emerging on the theory and practice of eBay’s new ‘dispute resolution’ process, and frankly, they are not good news for sellers.

Firstly, we see the process in action. I heard this week from a TameBay reader we’ll call Bob, who bought a mechanical item through eBay which arrived with an important component missing. Bob had checked with the seller before purchase that the part was included, and so was extremely frustrated when the seller failed to put things right. He’d opened a SNAD claim with PayPal, but was contacted by eBay and offered a full refund if he closed the PayPal claim.

I asked Bob what eBay had done to verify his claim. He told me: “I contacted the seller through eBay messages. All contact with him was through eBay messages and I had the impression that eBay customer services had access to all this when I was talking to them. I was asked if I was able to buy a replacement part, but in this case I have been unable to identify the machine maker to source one.”

And what had they asked him to do with the goods? “I still have the machine, and nothing was said about what I should do with it.” This is significantly different to PayPal’s policy, which did require buyers to return the item to the seller.

Changes to eBay UK user agreement

to make allowances for this new procedure.

Under eBay Buyer Protection … there may be instances where a seller doesn’t resolve a claim and we find in favour of the buyer, in which case eBay will pay the buyer and invoice the seller for the transaction amount. Where a seller fails to comply with the eBay Buyer Protection policy, eBay may also remove any special status associated with the account … and/or restrict or suspend the seller’s account.

The threat of negative feedback used to worry eBay sellers, but the threat of losing your money, your goods *and* your seller account under this new policy is a very real one. My advice to sellers in dealing with unhappy buyers has always been “don’t let it get as far as a PayPal dispute”: this now goes double under eBay’s new dispute procedure.

The best advice for sellers now is to be upfront about your own dispute resolution procedures: dispatch emails, packing slips and/or invoices should carry at least your contact details and advice on what to do in case of any problem. And if buyers have a problem, deal with that problem: if someone contacts you with an issue post-sale, don’t fob them off. Most buyers, most of the time, will go to the seller before they go to eBay – make sure you take that chance to put things right.

The new UA is effective from 8th July for existing eBay UK members. If you don’t want to accept it, you can, of course, close your eBay account.

41 Responses

  1. If you are a good seller with good solid procedures in place, you should welcome this change. I for one want the buyers who have left ebay over the years to come back and buy…the only way they will do this is if ebay make their purchase risk free. Poor sellers will suffer for sure…but is that a bad thing?

  2. “I still have the machine, and nothing was said about what I should do with it.” ‘Bob’

    “there may be instances where a seller doesn’t resolve a claim and we find in favour of the buyer, in which case eBay will pay the buyer and invoice the seller for the transaction amount” eBay

    Where as a “buyer” makes a claim, keeps the item AND payment, in the U.S. this is called Grand Theft, Larceny, etal. Then there’s California, where eBay resides, regarding California Criminal Law, Crimes Against Property.

    Therein lies the problem with the half-arsed attempt by eBay to provide customer service to buyers. It’s one thing to make buyers whole and feel safe. It’s another to literally steal from sellers.

    “Let me get this straight. You Want me to steal?”
    Alexander Mundy, It Takes A Thief

  3. John, I’d agree with you – if it were not for the fact that there are undoubtedly buyers on eBay who make it their business to profit by these policies. I’ve had one just this week myself – and though I only lost out by about £12, if I sold more expensive items, I’d be concerned.

    I’m absolutely totally in favour of buyers feeling like eBay’s the safest place to buy, but I’d like to also think that eBay were doing something to protect sellers, and right now they aren’t doing much to reassure me.

  4. EventHorizon: this is eBay UK, so UK law applies (probably 😉 ). In some circumstances, the buyer does not need to return the item, only make it available for the seller to collect. So rushing to call it Grand Theft, Larceny, etc., might not be quite appropriate. If a seller had delivered goods which were not as described, it’s my understanding that it would be the seller’s responsibility to get them back from the buyer. My concerns would be:

    1) with genuine buyer complaints, there doesn’t seem to be any communication between eBay and the seller except for the refund/invoicing. It should be a three-way conversation, which involves the seller arranging to make things good.

    2) as above, the potential for fraudulent claims seems exceedingly high.

  5. UK law and eBay…never the twain shall meet!

    There are many ways to “steal” an item and many definitions of theft. This new policy SHOULD be good news but as usual, the key points are not explained.

    I fear that the first time we will find out how this system is going to work will be when we bocome a victim of it.

    I still find it strange how no items EVER go missing when ordered via our website, only ever on eBay.

  6. ….. but was contacted by eBay and offered a full refund if he closed the PayPal claim …..’

    Preparations for a divorce?

    The way forward is ‘trusted sellers’ and a sitewide compulsory seller refund policy (not just business sellers). ‘Bob”s seller would not qualify as a trusted seller.

  7. “Most buyers, most of the time, will go to the seller before they go to eBay – make sure you take that chance to put things right”

    😆 😆 😆

  8. Most buyers, most of the time, will go to the seller before they go to eBay – make sure you take that chance to put things right

    While I’ve found this to be true in my own experience this is just another gun to the sellers head giving buyers more leverage and there are people out there that will take advantage of that fact. I can see some people sending messages demanding 50% refunds (or more) + the item or they’ll take it up with eBay and risk 100% + the item + seller suspension (they are smart so they won’t mention feedback but you know they are thinking about that too). Even I might be tempted to cave in that situation even if I knew I was 100% in the right.

    Any chance you’d mention what happened with the £12 sale you had go bad?

  9. We always make buyers open a PP dispute with INR claims, we won’t be changing our policy with this new system.

    There has to be some record of a buyer saying that their item has not arrived, if we simply sent another or refunded, that buyer could go on saying it every week and eBay wouldn’t know.

  10. #3 Sue – your are right, I think the big risk comes when items are not posted with some sort of tracking number…this allows the buyer to ‘claim’ that an item has not arrived. I think in these cases there needs to be some common sense applied by ebay if the seller can produce a valid certificate of postage with dates matching the SMP records etc, it warrents further investigation, i.e the buyer driving down to his postal depot and picking it up!

  11. More erosion of the original trade system by bog-bend Ebay. Everything is now stacked against sellers – the last thing you wanted as a seller was negative feedback – at least you had the very real threat of returning the compliment to an awkward customer. So that got removed.

    Next, everything that gets sold they help themselves to 10% – high percentage of the goods are under £50 so that’s a nice little earner whilst sticking it up the people making them their money.

    Now this new announcement. What else can Ebay do to totally f*** the selling community up? ‘We’re making it as safe as possible…’


    Your eroding the ability for the people who make you money to be able to defend themselves against unscrupulous buyers.

    “Most buyers, most of the time, will go to the seller before they go to eBay – make sure you take that chance to put things right….”

    ….before we land a big bill on your doorstep for helping some has-been trougher screwing you over on a product they ‘never got’, ‘wasn’t as advertised’, ‘arrived damaged’….. please. The list goes on.

    I’ve virtually stopped selling anything on it now. Hardly worth the effort. Owning Slaypal as well – criminals. Just lining their own pocket – taking a cut everywhere you go and giving you nothing back. Complete wasters.

  12. #11 Allan

    It could be worse. I was the lucky recipient of an eBay survey yesterday.

    ‘****** eBay misses you’.

    ‘……We noticed that you have been less active on eBay recently. You are important to us and we would like to know what we can do to improve your experiences on eBay……’ (btw I have 2650 listings)

    One question was:

    Would it be better if:

    ‘eBay blocks payment to the seller until the product has been received and confirmed as fitting the description’

    Please can we just have trusted sellers, common sense and simplification.

  13. ‘eBay blocks payment to the seller until the product has been received and confirmed as fitting the description’

    We are Platinum sellers and would 100% leave if that was ever implemented.

  14. @ Sue – sorry no shots! Survey took me 15 mins. Lots of dumb mindset questions/suggestions. Many were asking turkeys to vote for christmas.

    @ Pete – I leave the day before you!

  15. In UK law whose terms would take precedence “the seller’s” or “eBay’s”?
    I would imagine that the contract would be between “the buyer” & “the seller” (not sure though). If that were the case & if the goods are of sufficient value to warrant the hassle, I would imagine that “the seller” would be able to take action through the courts (against “the buyer”), if “the seller though a fraud had been committed.

    I get the occasional “missing in the post” claim & take it on the chin (once the buyer has followed our given procedure). I can’t imagine that the amount of claims made is going to increase significantly.

  16. eBay are playing a dangerous game with this policy. PayPal ran away and hid in Luxembourg to avoid any small claims legal action in the UK over unfair decisions. As eBay is still domicile in the UK it will be easy to start small claim actions against them which could cause them a great deal of headaches.

    The thing I have asked eBay to clarify is that they’re decisions will be governed by the Financial services Authority and that complaints can be made to the Financial Ombudsman as it is with PayPal.

    I have had a buyer email and state that the parcel is waiting for him at the sorting office but he can’t be bothered collecting it. So he opened an item not received with PayPal and even after I told them that the parcel was at the sorting office they refunded his full amount and then he simply went down to the sorting office and collected it. PayPal’s attitude was if you don’t supply a tracking number we refund no matter what else you show. As soon as I informed that I would be making a FO complaint for negligence and unfair contract they returned the money.

    I fail to see how eBay can introduce this rule. They have continually stated that they take no part of the selling process and simply host the site. If they are now going to start making decisions on who is right and who is wrong then this is a lot more than simply hosting the site.

    I know from experience that there are people who abuse the present system and eBay’s half baked new set of rules will just make it easier. As sellers we need to have buyer confidence but this cannot be at the cost of sellers rights to a fair system.

  17. Within the context of my own business, I can obviously agree with the general principle of increasing buyer confidence and retaining existing / attracting new buyers. If I can increase revenue by 10%, then the odd INR hit on a low value item isn’t going to ruin the equation

    Where eBay shoot themselves in the foot is in the implementation. The wording is draconian and we’re left to guess all the important details. No wonder many sellers believe the worst.

    Our plan will be:

    Send items (over certain value) by trackable services – it’s a seller’s responsibilty to deliver the item.

    Be proactive in all communication about how to contact us in the event of a problem

    Remember that ‘innocent until proven guilty’ should apply to all parties, (even if eBay seem to be forgetting this, we don’t have to sink so low).

  18. Until ebay climb out of this mindset that there are only bad sellers and no bad buyers their policies and “tools” will always follow the path of least resistance, ensuring in short the buyer will almost always win regardless.

    At the end of the day sellers have much more to do than chasing alleged lost parcels and sending placating emails, ebay knows this and has hedged it’s bets on the seller giving in and moving on due to lack of time. Happy buyers make for more sales right? Unfortunately during dispute processes this happiness is at the cost of the sellers. While this can be a relatively low risk, and most sellers can absorb so much it doesn’t make it right that we get shafted every time.

    I was under the impression that BOTH parties were supposed to benefit from a sale, ebay don’t seem to understand this conscept either.

  19. I’m the Bob that Sue is referring to here.

    Even though I have come out with my money back, I’m not entirely happy about the outcome myself.

    I’m pleased to have the refund, but I would much rather it had been the seller who dealt with it, rather than eBay.

    There is now a piece of equipment sat in my store which is no use to me in its current state, and I’m not even sure that it legally belongs to me to do anything with it.

    One voice says that I paid for it, and it wasn’t the seller who gave me the money, so it’s mine to do with as I wish.

    The other voice says that I haven’t paid for this so it still belongs to the seller

    As both a buyer and seller on eBay I can see both sides of the coin, and if I acted the way this seller did, then I would deserve some form of sanction.

  20. Bob

    As I understand it you opened a dispute through PayPal, had the seller told you that he would not give you a refund?

    If it was me I would now contact the seller and ask what they wanted me to do with the item or if the postage was not expensive I would just post it back.

  21. I agree with Jimbo, the item isn’t yours, send it back or at least let the seller know that they can arrange a collection.

  22. I didn’t ask for a refund, I wanted the missing part. Three requests to the seller were met with three promises that the part would be sent. None of the promises were kept.

    In one of the mails I did tell the seller that the item wasn’t worth what I paid for it without the part.

    It was over a week after the third request that I opened the dipute.

    It will cost about £15 to send it back and I’m not paying for that up front. I’ll contact the seller and tell him it’s available for collection and if it’s not collected in 14 days I’ll dispose of it.

  23. You should also tell eBay the same as you tell the seller.

    As I understand it, eBay have refunded you and invoiced the seller. If the seller hasn’t yet paid the invoice then the goods may belong to eBay.

  24. @ Bob

    Thank you for this real issue.

    Did you tell the seller at any stage that failure to respond would result in a SNAD report?

    Did you telephone the seller at any stage?

    Just curious cos eBay certainly aint got it right yet and real, rather than theoretical / anecdotal, experience is hugely valuable.

  25. A buyer purchased tickets on a Friday for an event taking place on the Tuesday. Makes payment of £170.00 via PayPal then requested to collect the tickets but seller refuses to covered by Pay Pal’s Seller Protection policy.

    Sunday buyer opens claim in PayPal item not received and then leaves negative feedback stating that the seller is a lair and fraudulent seller.

    Seller posts tickets on Monday via next day special delivery, gets a tracking number, on Tuesday the EPOD show that the tickets were delivered.

    Buyer changes the claim to SNAD and claims that no tickets were in the envelope.

    PayPal awards decision to the buyer who is refunded.

    Seller looses the tickets and the payment.

  26. @ John.

    I didn’t mention what I would do as I didn’t want to be appear to be making threats of any kind.

    All communication was by mail through eBay messages so there was clear evidence of what had been said.

  27. Bob it sounds like you have done every thing that can be expected & possibly more. Unfortunately there are still so many poor quality sellers out there.

  28. Excellent Blog by the way.
    Please don’t punt me …

    #4 Sue on May 29th, 2009 9:02 pm
    > this is eBay UK, so UK law applies

    Wink, wink, nod, nod. By our unofficial count, TameBay is a big favorite among Yank readers. More so than the competition.

    The principles/laws are the same though (given we ‘stole’ that from you); Return item to seller, get money back. Criminal deviations of this by buyer and/or seller can result in severe penalties.

    #4 Sue on May 29th, 2009 9:02 pm
    1) with genuine buyer complaints, there doesn’t seem to be any communication between eBay and the seller except for the refund/invoicing. It should be a three-way conversation, which involves the seller arranging to make things good.

    “what happened to the goods?”
    Whirly on April 26th, 2009 2:15 pm

    It is apparent that eBay’s unwritten procedure is to refund the buyer, and let the buyer keep the item. Then tell the seller they ‘did wrong’, with a bill to the seller for the refund.

    Plus: “sellers suspended”
    Cliff Aliperti on April 27th, 2009 4:45 pm
    eBay’s new dispute resolutions process in action
    Sue, Sunday April 26th, 2009 at 1:36 pm
    Reports of eBay’s New Dispute Process in Action
    Ina Steiner, Mon Apr 27 2009 027:21:28

    Of course eBay said: “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.”

    But if it is NOT IN WRITING, and it is NOT, eBay will do what it intends to do. Which then and now appears to be buyer keeps item and money, while seller pays for the refund.

    And read the eBay PR carefully. It’s not what you think it says.

    Translation: “eBay may absorb the cost to reimburse the buyer without any impact on the seller” “where both buyer and seller may be right.”
    Corrollory: ‘eBay may not absorb the cost’.

    And what is “right”, and who determines “right”?

    Twenty-five years in business you expect to ‘get IT in clear understandable writing’. No weasel words, no escape clauses. When eBay does that for protection policies, we’ll take at face value what eBay Says.

    #4 Sue on May 29th, 2009 9:02 pm
    “the potential for fraudulent claims seems exceedingly high.”

    To change track slightly, in general the incidence of fraud is low. However given eBay’s recent past history of exceeding our worse case scenarios ……

    A large business can afford the attorney(s) to go through the legal motions of getting their property back or getting criminal charges filed. A small business does not usually have these resources. I suspect eBay is aware of this, and expects the small seller facing large losses to go belly up. Or not sell on eBay.

    Perhaps a large business may not care, thinking it only happens to small businesses. But when the small businesses disappear, guess who becomes the bigger target for fraud?

    “I am frankly content to be a lesser target.”
    Spock, Star Trek: Mirror, Mirror

  29. To be honest I experience very little “fraudulant buyers”. If you do enough business you will encounter bad buyers but they are few and far between.

    My problem is occasionally I get the Paypal dispute where a buyer will pay me and provide their former residence in paypal checkout or I have a tracking # that shows the item was delivered but the buyer still said they never received it. Will be very interesting to see how eBay will decide these cases. PayPal has always ruled in my favor, but then I’d sometimes also have to take a negative feedback.

    In about 1,000 transactions I usually get about 3 or 4 disputes and 90% of them are buyers giving the wrong address. I just had a dispute yesterday where a buyer paid and I sent the item and the buyer never included his apartment # on the address. So now he files a dispute and I’m out the postage that I paid to ship it to his incomplete address.

  30. #30

    I get a lot of items returned as well due to incorrect addresses or failing to collect. I usually recharge the postage and packing although sometimes I get into a bit of an argument about this.

    The problem with free postage is that I can recharge it as many times as I want and I will still be out of pocket when I repost.

  31. We get those too, where the buyer insists that they have checked with their delivery office and say nothing is there. Then four weeks later we get the parcel back with a little red sticker saying “not called for”.

    Postmen rarely leave a while you were out card, the buyer never believes us.

    One thing we have found that solves this problem is as soon as the buyer starts chasing their parcel, we fill out an online redelivery request here:

    This has worked a number of times and saved us trying to convince the buyer that Royal Mail have their parcel.

  32. # 32 Thanks for the tip with the online redelivery request, think we’ll start implementing that today.

  33. #32

    I often find they don’t start chasing it at all despite me telling them to contact me if it has not arrived in 5 days.

  34. I am now suffering screw by paypal buyer dispute claim.
    i sent the item to indonisia via royal mail and the buyer
    claim didn’t receive it and my account now is negative and
    ebay hold my money and do what they want. One month
    has past, the money is still hold in their pocket. what
    can I do? My bustard bay!

    and in another case, ebay fee acted me to pay off
    I hate ebay as I hate myself. what a hell it is!

  35. Sue, this isn’t just an eBay UK issue. Changes have already been made–and adjusted–to the UA to allow for this ill-conceived policy.

    The UK has significantly different laws regarding mail order purchases returns, but there should still be some robust fraud detection–and some common sense. Until I see evidence of eBay proactively going after the bad buyers on the site, I’ll continue listing elsewhere and use eBay exclusively as an advertising venue to drive traffic elsewhere.

    They’ve simply made it too easy and convenient for the bad buyers while doing nothing to retain the honest ones. And they’re undermining the trust between seller and buyer while they’re at it. Sellers are far more likely to assume a buyer is trying to scam them than they would have a few years ago. Buyers are far more likely to assume that the seller is up to no good. Trust has been destroyed rather than restored by these kinds of policies.

    And as seller losses mount, the few deals remaining on the site(s) will disappear as sellers must recoup those losses through higher prices.

  36. I can read that most of the people complaining about this are sellers…
    which means you make money from this…

    as with most Trading standard law, the object is to protect mainly the purchaser…. there are a number of obvious reasons for this, but mainly because in days gone by it would be a case of one person versus a company, plus the fact that the seller is part of an ongoing business who can afford to take the odd knock, whilst the purchaser tends to be an individual for who the loss is more signifcant.

    I dont want to state the obvious, but the instance of “rip off” buyers is probably equal to the instance of sellers who misrepresent and set out to decieve, and so I wouldnt be so paranoid as to feel persecuted by these new rules..

    after all I have the option that If I dont like the rules, I can close my account and if i want to keep selling, find another way to do so…


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