Seller takes eBay to court over disputed buyer claim

This will be a familiar story to anyone who has sold on eBay. You send the goods, the buyer disputes that the items are as desribed and puts in a claim to eBay. eBay rule in the buyer’s favour and requires a refund be supplied. The seller doesn’t get the goods back.

That’s exactly what happened to Vishal Vora. He sold an iPhone and the buyer claimed that he had only sent the box. eBay pursued him for the money, first by deducting funds from PayPal and then through a debt collection service. Needless to say, Mr Vora has never seen his phone again.

But not only did Vora not take it lying down, he’s forced eBay to back track on its decision. He went to the Small Claims Court to get the money back from eBay. They settled. Now he is pursuing them for compensation for the time he has had to spend on the case.

You can read the full story in the Observer from Sunday, but it once again makes for irritating if familiar reading. Vora quite clearly sent the phone and eBay quite clearly boobed in the first instance on this case.

As we’ve written before, eBay needs to urgently redouble efforts and address these problems with poor customer support, ongoing fraudster buyers and a totally inflexible approach to evidence and reasonable argument.

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Could not agree more, well put Dan. One thing that especially irks; open cases will (or at least appear to be) generally be found in the buyer's favour if the tracking number is not from a 'mainstream' courier. That means one of the few popular household name carrier with an open site with public tracking. These are not the (excellent) carriers that specialise - or even touch - 'ugly' items or white goods. (tuffnells, XDP, Nightfrieght, TNT even). With a recent item not rec'd case for a very large PLC who's eBay shop I manage, I was curtly and rather patronizingly told by our Top Rated Support, to quote, "next time ask your client to use a mainstream company where the tracking is available to the public so we can verify it".

Mark B • 18th February 2014 •

this guy needs a medal we love him ,every online seller should support this fella , donate towards his efforts , worship at his feet, and well done the observer and Tamebay for highlighting this

northumbrian • 18th February 2014 •

Ebay will have the final word. I'm guessing the seller was not a business and was an occasional seller. We live in a world where package contents do go missing in transit. I know. It's happened to me! The retailer simply sent the goods out again. In this case who has actually won here?

Gary • 18th February 2014 •

of course it happens, but its ebays attitude thats the big story

northumbrian • 18th February 2014 •

A buyer has not received a phone and has had his money back. Why is this unreasonable and why do ebay have a bad attitude? The seller leaves ebay with a debt. ebay only lost the case because they presumably considered that it was not worth their time and money defending. Is there absolutely any evidence of buyer fraud? The seller should surely be claiming compensation against Royal Mail? Why has't he? Did he not use special delivery or an insured service as recommended by ebay? What is the story here? Help me please somebody.

Gary • 18th February 2014 •

ask ebay for help and see what happens lol

northumbrian • 18th February 2014 •

the whole point is the buyer can say anything they like about anything, prove nothing ,give no evidence, then ebay insists they are refunded in full on what amounts to hearsay ,

northumbrian • 18th February 2014 •

oooh look a brand new ultra book has just arrived in an empty box thank you santa ebay

northumbrian • 18th February 2014 •

I can see that but my experience is that if a buyer opens a case they are normally right and I do the decent thing. Even I make mistakes occasionally! Out of the 1000's of cases opened weekly what percentage are fraudulent? Not many I would suggest and if ebay are going to investigate every one then my fees are going to go up because of the increased overhead and this is something I don't want to happen. The fact is this empty package is a job for the Royal Mail criminal investigation team and the seller in the story has done all of us a disservice by not reporting this to Royal Mail and doing things properly. The Royal Mail thief has got away with it and will do it again.

Gary • 18th February 2014 •

"I can see that but my experience is that if a buyer opens a case they are normally right " EH! are you on the mushrooms?

northumbrian • 18th February 2014 •

you must only sell bibles?

northumbrian • 18th February 2014 •

I would suggest that there are quite a few fraudulent cases each week although there may only be a limited number of people putting them in. I suspect that somebody who is a bit bent tries a case knowing that it is fraudulent. He(or she) finds that ebay is fully supportive and decides to have another go. Now they are claiming regularly because they now know that ebay will always take their side. The only thing that saves us from being swamped under fraudulent cases is that most people are essentially honest. Its only a relative few who keep on putting the fraudulent cases in. If ebay was to keep a check on who was putting in all the cases I think that it would soon become obvious that a small number are putting in a large proportion of the cases while the majority if they lodge a claim it is probably justified.

Chris T • 18th February 2014 •

I take exceptionally good macro images and "item not as described" flaws are pointed out, I look at the images, and they are correct, so the item is not as described. I cannot be perfect every time when listing 100's of items a week. You sell auction only. I sell mainly BIN. With BINS descriptions and images are everything as the value is fixed and there has to be a level of trust between buyer and seller. With auctions you can say "sold as seen" and "please bid on what you see in the images" and all sorts of other disclaimers that put the onus on the buyer not the seller. No trust is required and no real error risk on the part of the seller. In the last 12 months every case opened against me has been on a BIN with not one on an auction. The story above is a case of "item gone missing in the post". Nothing at all to do with "item not as described". Therefore it is a matter for Royal Mail and not ebay or the seller. Seller should refund and claim loss from Royal Mail. If seller refuses to refund then what option do ebay have but to refund on the seller behalf and claim from seller. Why should ebay investigate? It is for Royal Mail to investigate. That is the black and white of it. Why are we and the newspaper and the seller assuming buyer is guilty until proven innocent?

Gary • 18th February 2014 •

As an aside I also get "cases" on website sales. I do the right thing. Get repeat business whatever.

Gary • 18th February 2014 •

don't matter what you sell or how you sell , your selling to humans, with all that goes with it, we do the right thing too! we make money, were not evangelists

northumbrian • 18th February 2014 •

your still missing the point, any tom dick or harriet can blag anything they want on ebay with impunity ,they only need to say that they received an empty package

northumbrian • 18th February 2014 •

and why should the onus be on the seller to report a theft or make a claim? its the buyer who is claiming they did not receive the goods ,? at the very least they should put their neck on the block in an official manner by putting it in writing to the mail service or their police

northumbrian • 18th February 2014 •

The litigant as a buyer has spent £20000 on ebay over the last 10 years. What if he had received an empty box one day? He would be the beneficiary of ebay's protection scheme. Instead of thinking of the benefits as a buyer he cannot accept what has happened and goes into mad dog mode. Yet he has saved ££££'s with his ebay purchases. isn't it a bit silly?

Gary • 18th February 2014 •

Looking at the story, Gary, there is evidence on the seller's side. My experience is that ebay don't have the staff or (apparently) any inclination to investigate. The seller's paypal and ebay accounts are likely to be frozen and the buyer ends up (frequently) with the refund AND the item. Ebay needs proper rivals!

Pete • 18th February 2014 •

I fully agree with the bloke taking ebay to court. The policy is junk and wholly unfair. I hope ebay get told how to act fairly by a judge making a legal precendent for other to follow if they choose and they don't decide to settle out of court.

mw • 18th February 2014 •

ebay policy is not junk and legally correct. Sale of goods act seller responsible right up until point of the goods being in the sellers hands and the seller being satisfied. If parcel signed for and package opened later seller still responsible until buyer is satisfied. At no point can seller say to buyer to claim from the postal company for loss. It is the duty of the seller to do this:- I'm guessing the only reason ebay dropped the case/defence was they did not want to be seen to be setting legal precidents. The seller may be a private seller and not a business. ebay probably don't want two sets of terms and condition in connection with their protection policies. They want to apply the terms as they stand for both business sellers and private sellers. It may have had knock on worldwide implications for ebay's business. Anybody who says ebays terms are unfair has to be a private seller.

Gary • 18th February 2014 •

Gary, That would apply only if the seller is a business and I think that in this case he was not. With respect to terms between a business (eBay) and a private person (the seller) they need to be both fair and reasonably reciprocal.

JD • 18th February 2014 •

FYI Gary I am a Business seller - It's my business and my money ebay hand out on a whim. Your replies makes me think 2 things. You either work for ebay and are playing PR for them or you are a big business employee who has no care for the money as it's not yours anyway. There is a difference between legal and fair. I have no problem with my legal obligations towards buyers. My problems are the scenario that this person in the article and ebay have played out. Ebay claim to protect sellers, but evidence plainly suggests otherwise. It almost seems to much trouble for them to care. It's a thorny issue, but all ebay have to do for me is provide evidence of investigative work they have carried out or they provide information on the level of risk associated with selling to certain postcodes (even allow me to exclude certain postcode regions).

mw • 18th February 2014 •

you can quote any rule or policy you wish, it does not alter the fact its simply unjust and unfair that all a buyer needs to do is claim the package was empty to gain a refund

nothumbrian • 18th February 2014 •

What would you suggest then to make things fair? That the buyer has to submit a police report and pass this report number onto ebay before the refund is made?

Gary • 18th February 2014 •

possibly ! its a complicated problem that needs thoughtand legislation ,or ebay and online sellers are wide open to fraud, tracked, signed for , security seals etc are all for nought if all that needs to be said is EMPTY, and another thought I just wonder what ebay would say if we claimed the next return from a buyer was empty? , I dare bet we would still have to refund

northumbrian • 18th February 2014 •

all any buyer needs to do, for any item, is say the box is empty, whether it is or not. eBay will give them all the money back without even asking if they might be mistaken. whether you have tracking info, images, weights and measures, whether you actually filmed yourself taking the item and handing it to them in person and show the video to eBay, eBay will still take your money and give it to anyone capable of typing the lie "i received an empty box". no questions asked, no appeal given (okay you can press the appeal button, it wont do any good). how is this a fair policy? also for any tea-leafs reading, eBay wont insist you send back anything with any measure of broken glass. i know from experience all you have to do is take an image of a 1mm wide piece of broken glass (dont worry about it being from the same item you ordered, they dont care or even ask), tell them you're not posting the item back, and they'll let you keep the item and give you all your money. think how many plasma TV's you could pick up before anyone noticed!

james • 19th February 2014 •

Just had a scam done where the buyer made out "item not as received" no probs..just send back for in the 14 days of receving for a full refund..where she had bought 2 said all the boxes were I thought strange as I had put them inside a bigger box so they didnt get squashed in transit..however you have to give the benefit of the doubt...I received them back and signed for them for her to put no hairpieces in but the 2 empty boxes...she ignored my messages in the resolution i took it on myself to message parcel2go who comfirmed my weight of the bigger box and the 2 empty boxes....she then escalated it to a claim today ignoring the fact i said she had sent back empty boxes...I then forwarded all evidence of the weight on my scales with the empty boxes as well as the screen shot conversation with parcels2go to confirm the weight i had....i also got in touch with action fraud online and got myself a CRN....ebay made a decision which went in favour of the buyer despite all my evidence...i have constantl;y been on the phone to them regarding all of this to back my claims i appealed it and rang them to make an instant decision as not prepared to wait..within 5 mins i got a refund from eBay and the appealed turned...however she has 2 hairpieces and a full refund...think something needs to be done if you have sufficient evidence to support the case.

sue fell • 21st February 2014 •

I couldnt agree more Sue, Ebay keeps banging on about the site being a fair place to trade for both Buyers and Sellers so COME ON EBAY make it fair! If you happily believe a buyer when they claim "empty box" then you surely also have to believe sellers when they claim the same for returned items.....or are you saying sellers are liars but but buyers are not?!!!

janet • 21st February 2014 •

ebay will do something when it hits their bottom line, until then its suck it and see for the plebs

northumbrian • 21st February 2014 •

i have just sold something on amazon and it clearly states "Please remember that you are responsible for the item until it reaches the buyer at the address provided in your seller account.". i presume other online selling formats to be the same, under consumer law.

dan • 22nd February 2014 •

I have had this happen to me too. No dice from ebay, and what's more would not remove the numerous negs associated with the case. It truly soured how I felt about ebay and have since started to branch out in to other directions. Customer services also left me feeling so small.

Rich • 4th March 2014 •

on two occasions i have had the same sort of thing happen to me sold a phone in one instance the buyer said it was very used not as per description i provided paypal the ID number of the phone and i asked the seller to send paypal the picture of that number i did explain i can find out where the phone was registered last from the number the buyer dropped the case. on both occasions with phones we got paid and yet a set of handle was ordered £27.50 3 weeks later buyer said someone used his card, paypal case opened i had a signed deliver the address as registered in ebay the signature looked as it was the buyers name and yet i lost my money. we have had hundreds of cases over the years in ebay we have never had a ruling in our favour we sell about 400 items per week and now i am looking at our own website as it seems ebay is making easier for people to rip the sellers of not all cases are fraudulent but you soon get a feel for those who may be don't sell DVDs is my advice as folk rip or watch them and return them or say they arrived broke happened so many times that i refuse to sell DVDs

andrew g • 14th March 2014 •