eBay is losing the perception war by backing dubious buyers in disputes

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It’s an impossible marketplace to police and arbitrate, not least because of its size. But an article in the weekend’s Observer about eBay UK that focussed on how disputes between buyers and sellers, especially casual sellers, seem to be weighted in favour of buyers will resonate with many.

The article features a handful of cases where seemingly obvious cases of buyer fraud, or buyers “having a go”, have resulted in sellers picking up the tab. And to regular eBay traders there will be nothing fanciful or new about the claims. Indeed, the buyer antics will seem all too familiar

In eBay’s defence, the welcome cull of over 50k naughty buyers was not mentioned in the article and should have been. But this is the latest in a series of pieces we’ve seen over recent months that suggest that eBay is not just failing to serve sellers adequately but also losing the media war.

If perception is reality, this type of piece is very damaging. Of course, we know that eBay isn’t terribly dedicated to casual sellers or devoted to its SME concerns so much these days. It’s new High Street friend and discounting retailers are the new eBay BFFs.

But as the comments on the Observer piece show, there is a problem that needs addressing. Many sellers, especially smaller sellers, who don’t have the expertise or experience to challenge a claim, are fearful that despite their best efforts, they will end up out of pocket.

The eBay defence will be: this is a handful of cases in millions and we’re even-handed. But I just don’t see how that can wash when I hear so many cases found against even the most diligent of professional sellers. And worse than that: even the top brass of SME sellers have no reasonable escalation or appeal process where they can make their case properly to a sentient human being who wants to listen.

eBay should be backing up good sellers, however big or small, when they are acting honestly and doing the right thing and have paperwork to prove their best efforts. Simple as.

58 Responses

  1. Had this exact issue, as a casual seller and avid buyer, I listed and ‘sold’ a pair of nice headphones for about $150. The buyer had over 2k positive feedback, and I was about to leave on a trip for 2 weeks so went straight to the post office to ship the headphones right away.

    It was my fault that I didn’t wait for payment, but buyer never paid. What ridiculously followed was because I filed a complaint, the transaction was never official, so I couldn’t even give negative feedback, Never got money from the buyer, and could in no way reflect their nonpayment. They never even responded to a single email.

  2. Hmm. Not sure that that your case is what I’m talking about to be honest.

    You had a non payer but shipped the goods. Not sure what the deal was with the dispute, but as a seller you would not have been able to leave a negative feedback anyway. Sellers can’t.

    Future advice: at least wait for payment before sending the goods.

  3. If you took the time to read the Powerseller Boards on eBay you would see that this situation is now a daily issue that sellers have to deal with – despite eBay’s statement this these are the exception – They Really Are The Norm!!

    Try living up to the name – TAME eBay!!

  4. I can only see the media coverage of this getting worse. That’s because eBay are useless at both managing the media and dealing fairly with sellers.

    So when Mary at The Sun (or one of her friends) sells their unwanted iPod in the free listing window after Christmas that happens every year and then has a case opened against them for non-receipt which eBay immediately finds in favour of the buyer I think there will be a few more stories doing the rounds.

    And rightly so. eBay deserve all the bad press they get.

  5. eBay does not need sellers it needs buyers so its always going to protect the buyers experience. Without buyers it has nothing yet there are millions of sellers , It’s a very simple and obvious situation.

    P.s I cannot believe people start to waffle about individual cases like that’s going to help anyone’s understanding of the situation.

  6. when you contact customer support with blatant buyer fraud or mis behaviour you get a twee we will pass this on to trust and safety dept response and nothing happens ,you may as well stick a message in a bottle and float it out to sea

  7. Michelin restaurant inspectors are anonymous. ebay forget that journalists are too. Are consistent standards too much to ask?

  8. On many occasions I have had the mis-fortune of ebay dispute facility and they ALWAYS take the buyers favour – why should we bother! A recent prime example was that a buyer wanted to return goods 28 days after they received the goods, outside the 14 day return period and when the goods were returned, only half the goods were sent back. I told the buyer I could only refund what was returned so they opened up a dispute case saying they returned everything in full and got their money back. Where is the justice for the honest sellers. There is no point of a 14 day return period if the customer can still make claims. I have no faith in Ebay dispute facility as they will always favour the buyer at the expense of the seller. It seems very strange I never get these issue’s with Amazon – ebay is becoming known for a good scam site to get something for nothing! (rant over) 🙂

  9. Mr Harrison (above) is right. Ebay have achieved a remarkable thing over the past 10 years and no one gives them credit for it. When I used to tell people back then that I sold on eBay, I would immediately be bombarded with tales of scams and rip-off merchants. Ebay had a seriously bad name and many people would not dare to buy anything for fear of losing their money.

    And you know what? I really can’t remember the last time I heard anyone say ‘You can’t trust eBay’ or ‘I bought something on eBay, never got it and lost all my money’.

    To achieve this turnaround, eBay have obviously had to side with buyers more of the time in disputes in order to protect them from unscrupulous sellers. And they must continue this. As Mr Harrison points out, eBay needs buyers. If the buyers leave because they fear losing their money, there will be no eBay, whilst there will always be plenty of sellers.

    Obviously, all the comments on this board are written by nice friendly sellers just trying to earn an honest living and some are suffering at the hands of fraudulent buyers. But I believe eBay is right about this being a minority of cases. (Though way more than a handful!) Most of us are buyers too and there can’t be many who can’t cite a bad buying experience, so that means there are still plenty of bad sellers out there. The difference is that we still buy with confidence because we know that when things go wrong, we are protected and won’t lose our money.

    The recent cull of fraudulent buyers shows eBay are aware this is a serious problem, and I am sure they will continue to do this. There is no solution that will satisfy everyone so eBay’s policy seems to be concentrating on the overall image of eBay as a safe place to buy. What they need to do now is to put a far better framework in place for buyers AND sellers to sort out disputes in a fair, open and even-handed way.

  10. My perception is that there is a determined 1 or 2 per cent that take sellers for a ride and ebay can’t or won’t do anything meaningful about it.
    It isn’t human error either, that story doesn’t wash because I pressed issues on numerous occasions.
    As I reported on other threads I have had overwhelming evidence that would probably stand up in a court of law, including online tracking, and ebay have taken no notice.
    And you can’t really challenge or hold your ground or you end up with negatives, bad ratings, and at worst a suspended selling account if you don’t voluntarily refund.
    I take the point that historically at least the sellers were the worst offenders, and sure it is a minority of dishonest buyers at work on a small number of transactions.
    I have also had issues with mis deliveries where the buyer hasn’t even contacted me or raised a dispute to claim a rightful refund, so I understand that ebay want to promote buyer rights. Nobody wants buyers to slink off never to buy again.
    All the buyer fraud seems to have kicked off even more since ebay launched the buyer protection banners with that ill worded message.
    People are right to highlight seller non performance and fraud, but curing buyer abuse is not contingent on first solving seller abuse and should be given priority now.
    It is extremely demoralising for honest sellers.

  11. I’ll never trust eBay as a seller again, we shipped a customer a full wardrobe set, totalling a quarter of a ton in weight, spread over several parcels, which had to be shipped via a specialist 2-man courier service.

    The customer then claimed he returned this using a single royal mail (second class) tracking number.

    we pointed out in the case he opened that this was impossible, provided images of the envelope we received bearing this tracking number, containing a magic tree air freshener and blatantly not a wardrobe.

    eBay refunded the customer anyway and point blank refuse to give us our money back. nobody with an ounce of sanity would do that with their own money, but its not eBays money, so they’re happy to throw it at anyone who asks, whether they’re fraudsters or not. and even when presented with irrefutable evidence of the crime they have commited, eBay’s response is “tough, go to the police”.

    eBays current policies are, without a shadow of a doubt, criminal. and they will continue to enforce these illegal policies (although won’t actually put them in print) until there’s an exodus of sellers, or one of their CO’s are put behind bars (which is extremely doubtful).

  12. Nice to know they culled some buyers……..
    Must be the ones I’ve had recently with zero feedback now saying item not received….hmmm
    Ebay makes so much money you would guess they would pay the bill a few more times especially when they allow zero rated people to buy and abuse the system, or when an envelope contains a complete set of bedroom furniture.
    My gripe is it always difficult to contact them. Had a problem with a buyer. He had contacted ebay so they were looking into it, but when I wanted to pass a message on to ebay about the scam I thought he was trying to pull (along with some evidence) all the links to contact them ended up going in circles so i couldn’t.
    I think most sellers do accept a few items do go missing in the post (by my calculations lest that 1%) but some buyers seem to have items going missing every week and ebay allows this to go on month after month. ebay should be more proactive and my feeling is they will be looking at buyers ratings for INR (looking at cases opened) and this will then trigger the buyer being banned if it seems high.

    I would also like to see what exactly happen for example when a user for no apparent reason is abusive, INR often (you get this sometime in feedback left for others) etc. If you report it you get the standard ” we have done something but can’t tell you” but to most buyers this means they have done nothing. Transparency would help.

  13. you quoted “In eBay’s defence, the welcome cull of over 50k naughty buyers was not mentioned in the article and should have been. ”

    Don’t you mean “over 50k naughty SELLERS”
    I can see nowhere where buyers were banned for dodgy transactions.

  14. I think ebay should be ‘proactive’ on this and ‘reach out’ to sellers by taking responsibility for shipping. Let us pay for shipping to ebay; once we have handed it to the Post Office and got a receipt, its should be ebays problem. Catalogue shipping works this way and has for years, so why not ebay? after all, they charge on postage, and get a discount from RM for every online postage purchase. About time they did something to earn it.

  15. gerry007- lol, okay – sells and hires professional 2-man large item couriers to facilitate the transportation of….

    its common sense that we dont use the postal mail service, but under the circumstances you’re absolutely right. the term may be correct in its usage, but its probably best to be clear when common sense is so rare.

    gary – especially at this time of year, there are other things to take care of before litigating. while the business does sell on other platforms and websites, my position is eBay manager, so removing our eBay store would be a bit of career suicide for me. I would much rather not be robbed in the first place, than be robbed, told it was for my own protection, then have to sue to get the money back from those claiming to protect me.

    it really is an open and shut case, in fact one which shouldnt have been opened in the first place. I dont know why you seem to be more shocked at us for not wanting to go through the courts than shocked at eBay for neccesitating it in the first place. although nobody else seems to be shocked by this typical eBay behaviour either.

    (the reply buttons seem to have disappeared from that previous thread)

  16. Ebay’s overall reputation with the general public is in serious decline. A company cannot engage in egregious actions towards its own sellers- including the purges of thousands of them in recent months- without experiencing a major negative publicity fallout.

  17. We recently had a buyer claim non delivery and demand a refund, we said we would refund when a dispute was open so that Ebay were aware of the claim in case there was a pattern from this buyer of items not being received.
    Funnily enough they left negative feedback but no claim was made.
    I think this speaks volumes.
    We have asked Ebay if they could remove this as we are suspicious of the buyers intentions but we are probably whistling in the wind.

  18. How easy would it be for eBay to simply add an “Item Not Received” filter just as they have for the “Item Not Paid For” filter that allows sellers to select their own levels of risk!!

    I mean, every time a buyer opens an “INR” dispute it registers with eBay so the simple fact of the matter is that eBay have the information yet choose to do nothing with it. Why? Because eBay aren’t the ones loosing any money….

  19. Ebay need to add a facility to extend the case time before it is eligable for escalting. The current time is too short to resolve a problem if a swop or parts are needed. We have asked customers to close the case while we resolve it but they never do. We now just avoid throwing good money after bad and do not attempt to swop goods or provide parts. The customer gets a far worse service because of this. Perhaps buyers above a certail % feedback could get a longer period or the ablity to extend the period if required.

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