eBay UK Seller Release: Automatic acceptance of returns

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Announced in today’s Seller Release, from autumn 2017, eBay will start automatically accepting some return requests on your behalf for items where you offer a returns policy. This will only apply to domestic returns – international return requests will always require your intervention.

The idea is to streamline the way returns and the eBay Money Back Guarantee work, making it quicker for you to handle these requests and it should mean that buyers send items back to you more quickly, save you time accepting return requests and mean you’re reimbursed more quickly for listing fees. Realistically most of the time you’ll have no option but to accept returns under certain circumstances so why not have the process automated?

Reasons for auto return

eBay will automatically accept returns and offer your buyers a return postage label if they want to return an item for any of these reasons:

  • Doesn’t fit
  • Changed my mind
  • Found a better price
  • Just didn’t like it
  • Ordered it by mistake

For the above return reasons, if you indicate that “buyer pays” for return postage, the buyer will need to pay for the label used to send the item back to you. If you indicate “seller pays”, you’ll be charged for the return postage label if the buyer uses it.

Reasons for auto returns if you don’t manually respond to a return request

eBay will automatically accept returns only if you don’t respond to a not as described return request for any of the following reasons:

  • Doesn’t work or defective
  • Doesn’t match description or photos
  • Wrong item sent
  • Missing parts or pieces
  • Arrived damaged
  • Doesn’t seem authentic

Currently, the time frame for responding to these requests is 8 calendar days and, from early next year, will reduce to 3 business days. This will align return expectations across eBay’s global sites which up until now had differing time frames set. For these returns, you’ll be responsible for the return postage cost. Bear in mind that most sellers will be on top of their business and 3 business days is quite a long time to deal with a return request (93% of sellers reply to return requests in less than 24 hours). eBay will only automatically accept the return if you don’t respond within the time frame.

Offering free returns

Offering free returns on your listings is attractive to buyers and so eBay are supporting sellers who offer free returns by:
free returns

  • Offering buyers options to search for and filter by free returns policies.
  • Highlighting free returns policies when buyers visit your listings.

If you offer free returns and the buyer returns the item in the same condition in which it was received, you can issue a full refund on a return. Alternatively, you can choose to offer as low as a 50% refund if the item is returned damaged or with missing parts.

Where to add your returns policy

If you have you returns policy in your listing description then it’s time to delete it. You should only include returns details in the Return options area on the listing form or by setting up a returns policy in Business policies.

This is critical if your returns information in your listing description includes any contact information including your returns address as you’ll fall foul of eBay’s contact details clampdown.

Protections for sellers

eBay are upping their policing of buyers who may abuse the returns process to include:

  • Early detection of buyers who might misuse sellers’ returns policies to prevent them from starting a return.
  • Clear internal guidelines for acceptable returns.
  • Clearly defined consequences, including restrictions for buyers who do not meet eBay returns policy standards or misuse the platform.

If you feel a seller is misbehaving, don’t forget that you can now report a buyer to eBay for further investigation.

It’s also worth remembering that for low value items you can set rules to simply refund the buyer if the return postage cost would be more than the item is worth.

8 Responses

  1. The problem is that a buyer abusing the system still gets a refund regardless. No matter how much proof you have. Ebay either just take it from your paypal or refund out of their pocket, which still rewards the fraudulant buyer.
    There is no real option to challenge a return except escalating toa case which you lose 99.99% of the time and you get a strike against you for even trying to argue it!
    We get so many claiming not as described and then a message saying they bought wrong size, or simply didnt read the description. Example was a pool cleaner that said in the title it needed a 800gph pump. Then again in the description. Customer tried to return as defective as it didnt work with his 330gph pump. Even write that…. i escalated as i would have both a used item and a have to pay return postage plus my lost ebay fees… pointed out the title, the description, the message from buyer stating they were infact using the wrong pump…. ebay refunded. never even got the item back.
    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

  2. Ebay are profiteering from overpricing the returns postage label. On returns that cost 98p, ebay returns are charging the seller almost £3. If ebay automatically accept the return and offer the returns label, the seller is now financially penalized for a buyers mistake or decision for a) cost of originally sending the item and b) an overpriced returns postage label cost.

    Ebay fee’s are already high and continue to increase. The latest is a VAT increase from 15 to 20% on fee’s, and increasing the late delivery target from 4 to 3% for the 10% fee top seller discount. Royal mail claim 1st class items will arrive 95% on time, so the 3% target by RMs own admission is not achievable.

    The additional costs will persuade many sellers to create their own e-commerce store, or use an alternative to ebay., or just stop altogether. Ebay when it first started was a friendly marketplace that offered simple rules (feedback), and good value for money for both seller and buyer. Not anymore sadly. Not to mention Paypal do not offer a reasonable rate for international money transfers either. I now use OFX which has so far saved me many ££££’s for no extra effort.

  3. “Protections for sellers” that bit there I have trouble actually believing. We get everything back does not matter and yes we even pay the label they ebay rip us for and profit on, it does not matter.
    You get those who try and swing a freebay all the time, we have one right now everything to avoid sending it back even when we paid the return label, they just want something for nothing.
    Every single item we have ever had back and claimed defective and worked perfect when it is back here. It is just people who are to tightfisted to (and they are always Brits) to pay for a stamp.
    The rest I do not have much of an issue with.

  4. What happens if you only have occasional access to the internet and cannot respond to a returns request within three days, such as when you are on holiday ? Even more difficult when you are away for several weeks and cannot accept or check the returned item so it is likely to be returned to the sender. Some ebay operatives are understanding in this situation but they cant do anything to stop the automated proceedures.

  5. Nasty way of punishing sellers for doing nothing wrong and personally I would switch to another site .
    How are you supposed to budget for people’ changing their mind on an item. its ridiculous. By the time you pay to post he first then back again you’ll simply be out of pocket to make their company save a bit elsewhere.
    Also ‘Because they found a better price ‘ Really on an auction site.
    Thought the point of an auction was to bid the price up and nowhere have I consented to being on a price comparison.
    You pay for what you get so surely if buyers want to purchase something decent, they would rather pay more or the seller wouldn’t choose not to take as much hassle over it and sell elsewhere.
    And as for ‘just didn’t like it’ – I don’t like their fees so does that mean I get a refund from them?
    All in all buyers need to grow up and realise sellers are not just going to bend over backwards for a sale. Doubt most of the people who use returns would like to spend time listing their stuff, have someone mess around with it then bill them for the privilege.
    When I read the policy for the first time I thought It was some sort of joke. To buy something by mistake. Seriously? How can you buy something buy mistake, wait 8 days to realise then think its okay for someone else to loose money cause you cant take responsibility.
    Notice most of this doesn’t appear to be costing eBay a penny yet its ok for people actually trying to get sales and trade in business to do so.
    The worst of it all is the fact they HAVE NOT asked sellers and have almost ‘snuck it into’ their updates. You have to read the whole message under ‘streamlined after sales process’ to access page and under can I decline they basically say no.
    In other words it appears that they are getting a ‘too big for their boots’ thinking they can lay out every other businesses policies regardless of the repercussion or implications it may have for any of them(us), (and didn’t think it was legal for them to do so).
    Best new policy of Mine may be introduced as a result : Save fees by waving by.

  6. This really isn’t that different to what is already in place.

    The immediate auto return options are the ones you’d probably set as buyer pays postage. So, it doesn’t matter if ebay does it automatically, or if you manually accept the return request. The buyer pays either way.

    The seller pays return postage options will give you 3 business days less to respond and sort it out manually, before ebay decides to step in and automatically issue a returns label and (over)charge you. How this might work in practice, only time will tell. If the goods are going to be sent back anyway, it’ll make it not a lot of difference. If it’s one of those returns case you can resolve without having the goods returned (eg. when it’s missing some parts or pieces, so you simply send those bits and everyone is happy) we might need to be quicker getting the buyer to close the returns case.

    Abuse of the returns system will continue as it always has. Manual or automatic will make no difference to that.

  7. Follow up point : Bottom six policies are in place in most areas of selling and where there however new five most certainly are not and are where I would draw the line selling online / under.
    Basic six (doesn’t work, doesn’t match description, wrong item, damaged, missing, non authentic) where there in place for ‘fair’ selling which for couple of years trading only arose couple of issues to people eventually banned from site or who never used it much (due to troublemaking and or other sellers complaints)(yes case resolution ruled in sellers favour to stop multiple refund scam!) and completely get buyers don’t want junk, haven’t really focused aggravation on these as you’d expect people anywhere to ask general questions as such before buying however new six are a major problem.
    (doesn’t fit, changed mind, found better price , just didn’t like it and ordered by mistake) Currently there are no returns or refunds needed to be offered , businesses on there up until autumn 2017 can set policy to not except returns for these issues due to what I would redeem obvious reasons.
    Most professional shops wont let you return an item because you feel like it so I cannot accept that they should expect thus sellers to.

    Shame as I have had a lot of genuine decent customers over the past as its unfair on them in my opinion because they who paid , received with fair feedback and made the process enjoyable will be left with sellers who would risk selling stuff under the assumption that it can be handled by complete random people who have no interest in buying fairly yet be prioritised above them.

    Would have thought people / buyers who haven’t open disputes should be their first concern , and that they should reward them or allow sellers to offer them the discounts instead of finding ways of making life easier for timewasters.

    Personally id rather offer combined prices or discounts to those who have bought fairly in the past as opposed to undercutting what they paid for someone who basically doesn’t.


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