Guest Post from eBay UK: The latest on eBay’s new returns service

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This is a guest blog post from Emma Grant, who looks after managed returns at eBay in the UK, in response to the numerous comments on Tamebay.

There have been a great number of comments and queries on managed returns over the past few days and we’re keen to tackle your concerns.

We’ve introduced managed returns because returns are important to buyers. Have you ever returned something to an online retailer? It’s so easy. You get the same experience every time and it’s clear what you have to do. On eBay, each seller offers a different returns experience. There can be a lot of uncertainty; what’s the first step, the back and forth on email and what does a ‘case’ have to do with it, anyway? Returns on eBay are anything but simple.

We want to provide our buyers and sellers with a simple and consistent experience. And we want buyers to be able to shop with confidence, knowing they’ll have the smooth returns experience they’d expect from any other online retailer, no matter which eBay seller they buy from.

So, are you making the new returns service mandatory?
From Autumn, we’ll start making the new eBay Managed Returns service a requirement for certain sellers who already offer returns on their listings. Gradually it’ll become a requirement for all business sellers no matter what they sell or the size of their business. We’ll let sellers know what they need to do at least 60 days in advance. We’ve announced this now to raise awareness of the change and give sellers plenty of notice.

But before it’s rolled out fully, we’re making some changes to make the system even better:

• We’re adding Royal Mail as a new carrier alongside Collect+. That means buyers have more choice of where to drop off their return items and we can select the lowest priced service available for the weight of the item. We’ve negotiated rates with both carriers, so returns postage costs are competitive when you need to pay for the return postage.

• You only pay for the return postage if the item is damaged, faulty or not what was ordered, otherwise the buyer pays the return postage cost, unless you’ve specified that you’re happy to pay returns costs for remorse returns in your listing.

• It’ll be even easier for you to report a returns issue to our customer service team. This means we can act quickly to resolve any issues with bad buyer behaviour and remove repeat offenders from using the service.

• You’ll have clear instructions on how to deal with different returns types such as exchanges or replacements outside of the eBay Managed Returns service.

Why should I use the new eBay Managed Returns service?
If the reasons above haven’t convinced you yet, there are many other reasons why this service makes sense:

• Automatic final value fee refunds once you’ve refunded a buyer, and free insertion fees on re-listing. Gone are the days of having to contact our customer service team or struggling to cancel transactions.

• Refund amounts are automatically calculated for you.
(N.B. legally, you’re responsible for refunding the outbound postage cost on any return, but you are only responsible for the inbound postage cost if the item is damaged, defective or not as described.)

• Easy compliance with legal obligations for both you and your buyers.
(N.B. your buyer legally must let you know that they want to return their item within 14 days of receiving it, and has to get the item back to you within another 14 days.)

• Buyers have to give a clear reason for returning the item, so you’ll always know why.

• No more matching randomly returned items back to transactions, tracked returns labels mean we’ll let you know when you’ve received the item and you can refund directly from the new returns dashboard.

• Buyers no longer have to open a ‘case’ in the Resolution Centre just to return an item.

• You can set up rules if you don’t want the item back, for example if it is low value.

• You can specify an alternative return postage address.

• Returns are fully tracked.

• Increased seller protection with all returns information fully recorded, so you can report a returns issue if needed, and we can better support you.

What does this mean for the new seller standards?
We understand that not all transactions go well and this is just a part of doing business. With the new seller standards, as has been previously mentioned, ‘returns for item not as described’ will count towards the new performance measurement.

If you disagree with the reason selected by a buyer for returning the item, you can report a return issue, add pictures of the item and we’ll prompt the buyer to escalate the return to eBay for review. If the case is resolved in your favour, it won’t be counted against your seller performance and you won’t pay return postage costs.

What if managed returns doesn’t work for me?
There are certain circumstances where you won’t have to use the managed returns process. For example, if you sell larger, heavy items, if the buyer doesn’t have a UK address or if you aren’t based in the UK.

You can also change your preferences within managed returns to set up rules. You can select preferences for individual items or categories and also make sure that anything under a certain value doesn’t need to be physically returned by the buyer.

Find out more about the new managed returns service.

58 Responses

  1. We need it to be for international buyers as well or I end up having to do a ‘cancel transaction’ request every time they return something for a refund which takes ages.

  2. What about items that have technical issues and the buyer thinks the item is faulty? Will we be able to educate them before return autherisation?

    Will you be giving us more power to block bidders?

    Will you be NARUing buyers that have too many returns(Amazon does)

    What happens if your returns flow is more expensive than my returns flow?

    Last but not least. anytime I have returned anything to an online retailer I have had to request to return it. Often given an RMA after suppling reason for return and exploring technical issues.

  3. “If you disagree with the reason selected by a buyer for returning the item, you can report a return issue, add pictures of the item and we’ll prompt the buyer to escalate the return to eBay for review. If the case is resolved in your favour, it won’t be counted against your seller performance and you won’t pay return postage costs.”

    I am afraid I don’t understand this paragraph – Can I have some clarification? Are you saying that the sellers will get a chance to ‘dispute’ the reason for return prior to the buyer returning it? That the seller can upload pics to prove it was ‘as desc’ and then the buyer has to get ebay to rule on the reason for return.

    or are you saying that once the item is returned the seller can ‘report an issue’ i.e confirm it was ‘as desc’ …if the latter then what do you mean when you say you will prompt the buyer to escalate for review…he has had a refund and free return so what part do you think he will play now?

  4. I still have an issue with customers being allowed to keep the item if it is low value.

    It won’t take long for customers to realise for cheap items that eBay is basically free.

    I can get most of my items returned for about 50p.

    There should be a non tracked option for low value items. The buyer should be asked to get proof of posting.

  5. May I graciously with the utmost respect and civility enquire how my concerns have been tackled, seems nothing has changed! its still like it or lump it

  6. we can understand the logic behind the managed returns program even might agree with most of it ,
    but we just cant come to terms with the fact a seller is considered defective because a buyer lies to gain free return postage

  7. As an avid eBay buyer I find the returns process fine. It is as simple as any online store & paperless. I stick it in a bag with a post it, write on the address & take it to the postie.

    I have sent things with collect plus before. I have to have a printer with paper and ink. In the world of netbooks & tablets I use my printer once a year and it is hidden behind things. My mum doesn’t have one so how can she return anything? I need a sheet of labels or one of those clear pockets. At the very least I need to find the sticky tape from Christmas.

    Please don’t make me return anything via collect plus. When RM is integrated can I WRITE stuff on packets?

  8. What about personalised goods? A customer cant automatically return this when I cant re-sell it unless there is a fault. The process should be a return request firstly with a reason before they can return so we can agree this or decline it – Amazon do this and it works perfectly!

  9. I would like to challenge the following key points if I may:

    “each seller offers a different returns experience”.

    “we want buyers…knowing they’ll have the smooth returns experience they’d expect from any other online retailer”.

    “You only pay for the return postage if the item is damaged, faulty or not what was ordered, otherwise the buyer pays the return postage cost”

    “not all transactions go well and this is just a part of doing business”

    1) each seller offers a different returns policy due to each seller offering a different BUYING experience in handling, shipping times, charged/free shipping and shipping methods of economy/courier/express etc and so on. You can’t apply a single uniform rule for returns unless to impose a single method/timescale/cost of sending to ensure the return method/timescale and cost is proportional and mitigated. Thats the law, whether you like it or not.

    2) Ebay are not a retailer, contrary to their misinformed stated position in the world. You are a marketplace and payment gateway. Nothing more. The sellers are the retailer. Not all online retailers offer the same return policies and there is no “uniform” rule online. Return polices are built by each retailer based on their cost base and risk exposure in setting the original sales price and shipping terms. Whilst many sellers offer no quibble free returns, others charge and others vary in returns periods from 14 to 60 days. It is the sellers legal right to choose their own return policy and they are subject only to sale of goods act and distance selling regulations.

    3) Establishing if an item is damaged, faulty or not what was ordered when alleged by a buyer is subject to the sellers legal right to first receive back, inspect and test goods and packaging. To seek to circumvent this prejudices a sellers legal rights under a whole raft of legislation including the two acts above mentioned in point 2. It also suggests ebay wish to become party to the contract of sale and feedback process, contrary to their repeated assertions the sale is between the seller and the buyer.

    4) Sales not going well are part of doing business. But they are subject to the universal principle of equal rights under contract of sale and no preference being given to one party or another that may prejudice other rights. they are subject to the right to refuse, repudiate and challenge by the seller as much as the buyer.

  10. I would add that it is not my intention to be unreasonable with my buyers or ebay and already operate a fair, and legally compliant, returns policy already.

    I do however wish to state that ebay policies are subject to the same law as everyone else and just because ebay decide something is ‘compulsory’ does not make it by default make it legally enforcable, reasonable or proportional. Nor are ebay exempt from EU and UK law or able to make their own rules up on sales and returns in conflict with such laws.

  11. If a genuine buyer contacts us with reasonable probability of a genuine issue, we will happily arrange and pay for our courier to collect.

    If however a buyer repeatedly changes/escalates the nature of their complaint to seek to avoid paying return shipping and engages in established complaint building tactics to bully us then we ensure they are put to proof by returning at their cost.

    That is us exercising our legal rights, in a fair and professional way in protecting genuine buyers but challenging unreasonable, evasive or malicious buyers.

    Ebays new policy effectively removes our right to challenge and places control firstly in the buyers hands, then into the hands of ebay service staff.

    With respect Emma, if you were to hold a poll of “trust” on questions of ebay staff knowledge, fairness and even application of the law you would receive a highly negative result from most sellers.

    If Ebay promise to have disputes only handled by staff who are enrolled (and demonstrate) compulsory vocational qualifications in the area of contract and sales law then I will happily hand over compulsory returns.

    Unfortunately I really do know better, am far more qualified to decide who gets refunded and how much and would dance rings around most ebay dispute staff’s legal knowledge.

    Returns are a serious matter that go to the root of the contract of sale.

    They are not a toy to be played with by ebay in a “ooh wouldnt it be nice if buyers could just send stuff back without all these sellers disputing”.

    Find a new toybox, or we will find another platform that respects our rights.

  12. Unless I am mistaken this quote from the top part of the BLOG is a legal obligation in MOST cases anyway. There will be few sellers that are able to NOT offer returns on their listings.

    “From Autumn, we’ll start making the new eBay Managed Returns service a requirement for certain sellers who already offer returns on their listings”

    Does anyone know what the minimum cost of any Royal Mail Tracked service is.
    Signed for is certainly not tracked so I am imagining its way in excess of £2.00 but less than Special at about £6.00.

    What’s the answer, do we all have to think outside the box and alter all sizes of our products to show they are 10Metres x 10 x 10 just so we can get back to a proper returns service.

    Maybe this is will be another case for the OFT like Amazons price parity.
    Over the years I have been relatively happy with Ebay and adjusting to their new rules and regs but this makes me feel that I am just a piece of S*&^T on ebay’s shoe.

    Reading some more from above
    The BUYER has the choice of who to send by.
    “We’ve negotiated rates with both carriers, so returns postage costs are competitive when you need to pay for the return postage.” but still you won;t tell us the rates!!
    Theres a few people in these comments and on the previous discussions who appear to have a good knowledge of law. If you do get spare time, Please, see if there is anything that we normal sellers can complain to the OFT about so that someone could make a template email and we can ALL email it to the OFT.

    I’m off for a cup of tea and lie down.

  13. I assume that since ebay has the contract with RM, Ebay will also take the responsibility for damage goods in transit and items that go missing.

    What is the flow for this?

    Please can we have some solid answers to the various questions that have been asked by various long term posters on here.

    If you do not have the answers or you have to query with another party, please say so. As I for one do not feel there is much information being provided other than what is in the seller update.

  14. We already use Royal Mail’s tracked returns, so it will be interesting to see how the price compares and whether eBay will attempt to stop us using our own account. The service has minimum entry requirements, if we are forced to use eBay’s account we could face losing the service in our own right. Also, our returns go back to a PO box address, which Collect + won’t deliver to. Hopefully this is something that eBay will have considered.

  15. Many thanks to Tamebay and Ebay for providing this posting.

    I don’t doubt the method will work and will be easyish to follow.

    For me it is more about the big potential for buyer abuse.

    Already since the announcement I have had a number of messages. A couple have been fraudulent and laughable. And a few others well supported with photographs but clearly presenting inaccurate information. One item had a massive rip that could not be occasioned any other way than by considerable force by the customer perhaps getting caught on the gate for instance. In another the customer had wholly misrepresented item length in the photo.

    The point is no way are these defects. One was damage caused by the buyer and the other a simple ordering error.

    And this even before the new systems come in to place.

  16. Amazon must be rubbing their hands with glee as eBay further accelarate into insignificence.

    I used to be a Silver Powerseller but wound down 4 years ago to concentrate on Amazon and more specialists sites (we sell music memorabilia) and haven’t missed it a bit. In fact our profits have almost doubled during that time.

  17. Interesting point about the return and availability of a printer; never thought of that. As everyone under the age of 30 seems to be using smartphones or tablets not having a printer will be common. So hand addressing a return package is important – lets hope ebay take this on board.

  18. Thanks for the info Emma. Makes things a bit clearer but most of the stuff is still murky when it comes to “not as described”.
    We are told upfront that items ” not as described” will count against the Seller. Thats very clear.
    Since Ebay is taking control of the Returns process, don’t you think it’s Ebay’s duty s to make Buyers aware beforehand that abuse of the returns system by using “not as described” as a method of having items returned free could result in a limited account if proved wrong ?
    And how does the Seller prove the Buyer is wrong once he has received the item ? Uploading pictures that the Buyer can claim was not the item they sent the Seller ? Right now, a Buyer can return a box of bananas to the Seller when they originally purchased a pair of shoes and no uploading of pictures by the Seller will prove otherwise.
    If it’s going to be fair and if the Seller thinks the Buyer is wrong, The Seller should be allowed to request the Buyer to upload a picture ( time stamped ) for inspection by the Seller and Ebay before the item is returned.

    Also ” Increased seller protection with all returns information fully recorded, so you can report a returns issue if needed, and we can better support you.” is not worth the paper its written on.
    It’s just a murky statement with no examples on how a Seller is protected, as we all know that Sellers have absolutely no protection. It’s a fact and im willing to bet my house on it.

    Provide examples on what “increased seller protection” means
    otherwise it honestly means nothing.

  19. Buyers who make purchases through mobile channels should not be asked to use a returns service that requires a printer.

  20. Hi Emma
    You have said “legally, you’re responsible for refunding the outbound postage cost on any return” Are you sure this is correct?

    As I understand it You are not necessarily legally responsible for refunding all outbound postage costs. For example if a “premium” postal service is selected.

    Could you please check this and confirm that your comment is actually correct? Thanks

  21. I can fully appreciate why eBay want to bring in a system of returns that applies to all sellers.

    However, eBay are missing a very big point: there is absolutely no point in doing this if they still allow sellers to write their own terms and conditions regarding returns on their listings, as often these are completely different to the actual Distance Selling Regulations.

    As any professional seller will know (and eBay confirm in their link to ‘Your rights as a buyer’ at the bottom of every listing) you have to refund outbound postage if a customer returns an item. Why then are companies (and yes, I’m mostly referring to the big sellers here, as they are the main culprits) STILL allowed to say ‘we only refund the purchase price unless the item is faulty’? That’s against the law! I also understand from the Office of Fair Trading that sellers have a legal obligation to inform buyers of their rights before they purchase, so why are sellers allowed to misinform/lie to buyers?

    If the purpose of managed returns is to make things straightforward and avoid confusing the buyer, this needs to be tackled.

    Unless eBay stop this malpractice, the whole ‘managed returns’ thing is a complete joke.

  22. I’m a little confused as we sell collectables and antiques. The packages sent out are of varying size and weight, many i would not want returned by Collect +. Collect + has a weight limit of 10kg but also limits on the box sizes, will there be another bit on the listings now that stipulates the dimensions and weight? Also I have just re – read the info on ebay and it says you can add “returns not accepted” and then manage your own returns ( I think that’s what it means) but ebay has stipulated that due to distance selling regulations returns must be accepted. 

  23. Hi Emma

    I still absolutely do not understand why the buyer gets to decide whether I pay for return postage or not?

    We sell laptop parts. You get customers guessing at things all the time. For example a customer might buy a Toshiba Satellite L670-1LQ Laptop Charger, they get it home and it doesn’t work. Turns out their laptop model is a Toshiba Satellite L670-1LJ which needs a higher powered charger. Customers reason well I thought all Satellite L670’s were the same.

    At the moment if a customer says an item of ours is faulty or not compatible etc, the customer has to fill out a form asking them to look at the label underneath their laptop for the exact make & model. Once the form comes back if we are at fault we will either just send the correct charger or refund. If the customer has bought the wrong one we will issue them an RA number and get them to send it back at there own cost.

    This isn’t going to work under eBay managed returns. A customer will just go to returns and select item not compatible and send it back for free. Yes, we can dispute it, but how are ebay or us for that matter know whether the customer is right or wrong.

    You are using a one size fits all method for loads of different products available on ebay and it just doesn’t work.


  24. We offer the option of Royal Mail Special Delivery at £6.95 on all our items. Surely the customer is not going to have the £6.95 refunded to them aswell if they simply change their mind. Why on earth should I be out of pocket £6.95 or more?!

    This new system will be open to full abuse by buyers. As soon as they realise that they can mark the item as “Not As Described” they wont have to pay a penny for postage. Us sellers will then have to jump through hoops, taking pictures, measurements, sending messages back and forth to Ebay, in the vain hope they will agree with us, which lets face it wont happen as we are sellers! Will it be worth the hassle of all this to reclaim £3? I doubt it!

    Yet another nail in the coffin for eBay UK. I have stuck with eBay for many years, accepted and adhered to changes and new policy’s whether I agreed with them or not. This one is an absolute stinker, and needs a serious re-think on eBay’s part.

  25. Many sellers sell cheap items where if the buyer is unhappy for whatever reason then simply bin the item and receive a refund. Sure this is open to abuse, but the potential for loss is far far less than if the buyer sends back an item at the seller’s cost, where the item is of low value.

    So, eBay, I’m not expecting a reply from you – I’m just a mere TRS after all, not a shareholder – but how do you allow for those sellers who do not require their item returned, but simply offer a complete refund with no ‘returning a package’ hassle for the buyer? Surely that’s the best buyer experience, short of being completely happy with the purchase?

  26. Surely on some items, it would be better to just partially refund them (if the buyer is happy to keep the item), that way you are only refunding a small amount, haven’t got the hassle of the item coming back, refunding them, then refunding their postage.

    Always better to sweeten the deal, rather than actually be losing even more money.

  27. if ebay could demonstrate to me one vendor who supplies as large and as varied an inventory as is available on eBay, with as many wide and varied delivery options and times, and yet has a single constant return policy on every item, they may be able to sway me that this is a good idea.

    such a vendor does not exist. for good reasons.

  28. I am having some difficulty in understanding how eBay think that they can (effectively) amend carefully crafted EU and UK legislation by causing buyers to pay more than is necessary to make a return and also to automatically refund buyers without sellers having inspected the return.

    The intended balance of the legislation is altered.

  29. I am having difficulty understanding why ebay have set about creating a potential atmosphere between buyer and seller when the current system is perfectly capable of handling most problems.
    Serious financial problems will ensue for any and all small traders. I can see the small claims court getting busy (ebay staff may be called to give evidence in complex disputes) another is that sellers can seek redress for any financial loss through civil recovery agencies (the PR for ebay will be catastrophic when buyers complain to the press of having their credit rating ruined for years as a result of the debt collection agency actions).
    With so many sellers set against the mandatory introduction of this when there are so many pitfalls which ebay seem not to have considered (Xmas balloons anyone?) would it not be better and more prudent if ebay cash incentivised it’s introduction to sellers. A try it and see what you make of it for 3 months and we will give you a percentage off something. Gather feedback from said sellers and buyers and move on from there actively seeking to get more sellers voluntarily on board.
    I have no idea who ebay thinks this competition setting up free returns is? Anybody know??

  30. A simple straight forward question for Emma. What percentage of all cases currently escalated for review by eBay UK are won by the seller?

    I’d be shocked if we get an answer, and the figure will be very low. Ebay know fine well that it does not make business sense to risk escalating cases as the effect of losing them could be catastrophic, and ebay dam well know this; result? Seller will have a defect AND refund costs which ebay know fine well this is what happens and its insulting to spin it that it is for our benefit as the patronizing “Protecting Your Seller Standard” email that was sent out to try and calm the angry sellers this morning….

  31. For us ebay is becoming more and more irrelevant as a selling platform, this has been a general trend for the last few years. A smaller part of our business comes from ebay and it provides the most hassle for this smaller percentage of business. Will we keep a presents on ebay? Probably for our brands sake at the moment, to promote our brand across the internet etc, is ebay an important channel to us? Not at all, it is now the after thought when it used to be the first port of call. I look at it with the 80-20 rule / 20-80 rule. Ebay has created a number of new systems with poor interfaces / work flows, ebay cases and ebay returns, are the main two. Ebay provides about 20% of our business but creates about 80% of our issues and wasted time, the 20% of time we have left to work on other channels produces about 80% of our business. The amount of time we have to waste logging in and out of ebay to handle cases and soon returns is unbelievable, a simple email through our ticket system would have resolved most issues in half the time and effort. Ebay has now also told us we can no longer offer free returns (we use freepost), a great customer proposition, we now have to use ebay returns which charges a customer if they are honest and provide the correct return reason, it also costs us more money because we will end up paying for the majority of returns at a higher rate than freepost. Forcing us to use tracked returns when the item was sent untracked in the first place is crazy and means a customer cannot just pop a return into a post box, they have to go to the post office!. This year will see us increase our product quality and prices further, which we expect will further reduce our ebay business which we are not concerned about anymore, we will still list on ebay for now but at the higher end of the market, we expect we will attract a better customer demographic which has less hassle attached, we found this last year when we entered our first phase of price increases, our customer type dramatically improved. At the end of the day it is ebays site so it is ebays rules, it does not matter what i think, they will do what they want anyway, good luck to them, i think they are killing ebay personally, and as the rules and systems get worse and worse we will pull further away from ebay, we are working our way out of the ebay rat race that wastes all of our time, in 3 years we may not be on ebay at all.

  32. All future returns will count as defects. Buyers will select an option that does not cost so defect. Indeed all issues where ebay refund FVFs count as defects. Spot the link?

    ebay want to increase revenue by reducing fee refunds.

  33. I’ve always been happy to offer free returns to all my customers and all my listings clearly state this. As a result of this announcement I have decided to end this offer (on ebay anyway).
    Sorry if I’m straying off-topic but can anyone tell me if there is a quick way to do this. I’ve been playing with ebay’s bulk edit thingamy-jig for half hour and have got nowhere.
    I have over a thousand items listed on ebay stating ‘14 days refund, seller pays return postage’. Do I have to go through each item one at a time to change them all to ‘buyer pays return postage’? If so, I’m in for a very busy and very un-productive weekend.

  34. ebay UK claim they want a consistent return policy but yet are not imposing this on private sellers. Or even Chinese sellers.

    Is this because ebay fear private sellers and Chinese sellers would give up listing on ebay if this policy was imposed on them.


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