How long does an eBay buyer have to lodge a defect?

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Stuart Baldry is a Tamebay reader and an experienced trader on eBay, Amazon and other marketplaces as Managing Director of Urban 33. In this post he explores his recent experiences with eBay Customer Support trying to get to the bottom of how long buyers have to open a case.

Yet another set of confusing eBay messages about defects has come to my attention and I thought I would share them with you.

In the last two weeks, (May) we have had cases opened on eBay from transactions dating back to January and February. Firstly, I was shocked to see that cases could be opened from that long ago and secondly that these are now going to affect my TRS status when it comes in to force in August. I decided to call Customer Support.

To begin with I was told customers have 45 days from the payment date to open a case, and then I was told that this had changed in the recent release to 30 days from date of payment.

I then asked if that was the case, how did the customers open these two cases? Apparently these cases are for communication only and the customer could not escalate the case to eBay for review.

I then asked the agent if this was going to affect my defect rate as these cases had been opened. I didn’t really get an answer to this, just that I should deal with the customer and refund them with no question.

When I came off the phone I felt very confused as to what the rules are and how this is going to affect me in the future with regards to defects. I decided to call back and get some clarification on the issue.

I was then told that customers have 90 days after payment date to open a case. Within the 90 days customers and the seller can escalate these claims to eBay to decide upon. After 90 days cases can be opened by buyers but these are classed as ‘communication only’.

Cases can be opened at any time after 90 days with pretty much no time limit. A case opened before 90 or after 90 days will be classed as a defect. I was told that this was ‘concrete clarification’.

Shockingly I was then told that if a case is escalated to eBay support after 90 days it would always be found in the sellers favour and would not count as a defect. This doesn’t look good in terms of customer support after 90 days.

As I decided to write this article for Tamebay I called Customer Support again to clarify and I have now been told these are ‘the rules’ around cases:

Buyers can open a case within 30 days of the estimated delivery date and this case is a defect for a seller. The case can be escalated by either party after 8 days and cases close automatically after 30 days. If the case is found in the sellers favour it is not classed as a defect.

After 30 days customers can still open a case. eBay class this as ‘communication only’ and it is still classed as a defect. If a buyer or a seller escalates the case after 8 days it will always be found in the seller’s favour and won’t class as a defect. If not escalated the case will close after 30 days and will class as a defect.

The few points I take from this are:

• eBay need to sort out their customer support and have a clear line on rules so sellers know what they are working with.

• Customers have what looks like infinity to open cases and potentially affect your defect rate. The issue I have here is after three months all details of the sale disappear from a sellers’ account. If you sold something as a second or made any notes on condition of the item, this has all but vanished for you to fall back on.

• With cases after 30 days, there is no clear avenue for sellers to take if they cannot resolve something with a buyer, if I hadn’t called customer support I would have let the case close and have another defect on my account.

• However from a customer point of view, after 30 days if I open a case on eBay I am not going to get anywhere with a bad seller who won’t communicate with me.

This seems to be a very grey area for both buyers and sellers and eBay need to re-look at this as to what is best for both going forward.

7 Responses

  1. Great post. Sums up many aspects of eBay.

    Pretty much nobody at eBay has a handle on how the platform works or is supposed to work at all sorts of levels.
    Sure seems so to me.

  2. It is so simple. ebay could publish something on their website to provide clarity.

    What does “communication only” mean?

    Is it that the buyer has used the case system rather than the message system to communicate with the seller? If so then I can understand why ebay would always find in favour of the seller if escalated.

    Why do ebay have this habit of making things that are simple complicated?

  3. Were the opened cases in relation to problems where the customer would have legal rights with regard to the transaction via the Sales of Goods act?

  4. Firstly I am familiar with the “communication case” as I recently was just outside the 45 day limit for opening a real case. A “communication case” is a case opened but it can not be escallated. I do not know if there are any consequences to the seller but I think after the 45 day limit (or is it now 30?) it should be reviewed on a case by case basis. After all if a buy opens a case there is a problem and this particular seller is ignoring me over something which he must have known was faulty. Eitherway, eBay will be aware of such cases and ultimately if a seller gets too many then eBay will take notice and act.

    As regards eBay CS representatives, they have varying degrees of experience and understanding of how eBay and Policy works. It always shocks me when I ask a CS rep if they themselves actually sell on eBay and I am nearly always told that they don’t. I would have thought experience as a seller on eBay should be a mandatory requirement in the CS recruiting process! Then there is the all too frequent inconsistency in what CS reps say/do. A good example is when requesting removal of “false-positive” Feedback (not revision). Some CS reps will make the decision themselves to remove the feedback and DSR’s in their entirety. Others will decide to only remove the comment but leave the DSR’s. Some will refer it to a manager to decide. Then there are others who will tell you that the so called positive comment is the buyers opinion, and it is valid and within Policy, and therefore does not qualify for removal. The response varies from CS rep to rep.

    Some reps are proactive and very helpful, some are inexperienced and actually don’t know what the Policy is, others are experienced but contradict Policy, Dublin can often be more helpful than the Philippines, etc, etc… Calling eBay is basically a lottery and the response inconsistent depending on who takes the call.

    I doubt the incoming defect system will be fairly implemented which will certainly lead to many unhappy sellers (and probably a few unhappy buyers as well).

    And then trust CS to adjudicate these changes? Really? C’mon, eBay couldn’t organise a party in a brewery so they will certainly screw this up. And the consequence? Well, as always it will be the sellers who pay the price.

    A further outcome of these changes will be some sellers losing TRS and associated benefits, which ultimately means that eBay will make more profit. Surely eBay know this so perhaps a hidden agenda here?

    Then there is the question of whether eBay applies the same Policy to both new and used items? Maybe I will address this issue in another post. Then there is large corporate sellers vs. smaller independent sellers. Will Policy be uniform? Is it currently? You decide.

    The majority of changes that eBay implement are poorly thought out and usually flawed in respect of many sellers – especially towards those who sell used items with low margins. Clearly eBay is moving towards the Amazon model which favours large traders selling new items.

    I believe senior management dictate changes and do so with more consideration to profit than fairness. IMO eBay Policy is basically: profit first, buyers second, and sellers last, and no concerns about losing sellers as there will always be more.

    As I have said before, my advice for August is to take all your listings down and go away on a month long holiday until this gets fixed. You probably need a break and you won’t enjoy the fallout if you stick around!!

  5. When a buyer looks at their purchased items in my ebay and selects an action from the drop down list on the right it will atomically open a case, rather than the buyer being able to just send a message.

    ‘Communication only’ really means just that, the case won’t go anywhere but in the sellers favour.

    Wouldn’t it just be easier that cases can’t be opened after 30 days and buyers can only send a message? But then this is ebay….

  6. With regard to a customer opening a case after a couple of months. You could download a CSV file of your sold listings every month that would provide you with backup information with regards description that you would otherwise might be unable to access. Just a thought.


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