Can I return an item won on an eBay Auction?

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ReturnsSimon bought an item on eBay from a business seller, and decided he needed to return it, it was unused. The seller refused the return even though it was within 7 working days because he bought it on an auction listing.

eBay confirmed to Simon that he was correct as he has a 7 day cooling off period on any sale made over the internet, however the seller also rang eBay and they said he is correct. eBay support are giving conflicting advice which is never a good thing.

What if you change your mind? eBay say:

Distance Selling Regulations
The . In other words, where there’s no face-to-face contact between the seller and the consumer before the contract is made. The Distance Selling Regulations apply to items purchased via Buy It Now listings and Second Chance Offers on However, they don’t apply to auction format listings on

What if you change your mind? The law says:

The Distance Selling Regulations state that any contract concluded at an auction is exempt from the Regulations. However they fail to clearly define what is and what isn’t an auction.

The OFT guide for businesses on distance selling is just as ambiguous answering “How do the DSRs apply to auction sites on the internet?” with “This depends on specific circumstances” but not clearly defining the circumstances.

Simon asked Tamebay

Simon asked Tamebay who is right and who is wrong, why is it not straight forward and why are auction listings exempt from DSR? We only wrote about eBay auction returns recently, but it appears that some sellers still don’t want to accept auction returns.

Thankfully the confusion was settled in 2011 with the EU Directive 2011/83/EU which amended all previous directives.

Who is right and who is wrong

Simon – Right

The latest EU Directive differentiates between public auctions and online marketplace auction-style listings. It specifically states “The use of online platforms for auction purposes which are at the disposal of consumers and traders should not be considered as a public auction within the meaning of this Directive.” In other words an eBay auction-style listing is NOT an auction and yes you do have to offer returns.

The Seller – Wrong

It’s not the seller’s fault that they’re confused as to their obligations. For years, including in many court cases, the right to return items purchased on an eBay auction has been argued back and forth. Now the EU have made the situation clear at last – an eBay “auction-style” listing is not an “auction” so far as the Distance Selling Regulations are concerned. I have a certain amount of sympathy for the seller though… because eBay are ambiguous.

eBay – Wrong (and confused with mixed messages)

Whilst eBay only mention , their latest advice for the new returns policy information statest ““.

Whilst the new standard returns policy requiring sellers to specify who pays return postage costs and how many days buyers have to cancel a transaction only comes into effect in August, it doesn’t mean that buyers don’t have the same rights today. eBay need to update their change of mind returns information and confirm once and for all that buyers do have the right to return items purchased on auction-style listings to business sellers if they so wish.

8 Responses

  1. I think Tamebay may be wrong too 😉

    Your quote from the EU Directive is correct but you seem to have missed the fact that member nations have a right to transition their national regulations to the Directive standard over a period ending this Autumn. From then what you say will be in force EU-wide; until then the current UK legislation prevails (auctions exempt, 7 day period).

    This is also why, for example, eBay are transitioning return policies to a minimum of 14 days ahead of an early Autumn deadline. Which is also when they will have to have their guidance up to date.

    So perhaps eBay (and the seller) is right – for now

  2. I’ve raised this point with UK Trading Standards who are in practical terms the enforcers of this particular legislation. They were clear that they treated online auctions as auctions and buy it now as sales.

  3. Surely we have always had the right to return an “Auction” item if we find that it is not as described. So if it is sold as an Original and we subsequently find that it is in fact a copy or a fake.

    What about a Book that is sold as being perfect or clean and is found on delivery to be tatty with dirty marks all the way through it. After all we might reject an item for other than we have just changed our minds!

  4. “hey I’ve always believed that if I have to take the law out of the drawer to deal with a customer – I’ve failed :/”…. so true 😀


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