Living with eBay auto-accept returns

No primary category set

Following their Autumn Seller Release, eBay have put out a separate announcement board post detailing the rationale behind their decision to auto-accept returns on behalf of sellers.

“As we recently announced, we’re making further improvements to the returns experience on eBay. Today a large number of returns may require the buyer to wait multiple days before they can access a return label. This drives buyer anxiety, churn and an increased likelihood of the buyer asking eBay to step in to help. As a result, we’ll be increasing the frequency in which the buyer will have immediate access to a label on domestic returns, regardless of why they want to return the item. This means that when a buyer opens an ‘Item not as described’ return request, it will be automatically accepted, if it’s within the seller’s offered return window . We’ll be rolling out these changes over the course of this year, starting in September 17th, and will listen to your feedback as we ramp up this new functionality.”
– eBay

Some sellers (you may say many) aren’t particularly happy with the change in how returns are processed. It’s easy to see why eBay would auto-accept returns as for a buyer to wait several days for a return to be accepted is a pretty poor buying experience when it can be automated. From the seller perspective however, you’re telling us you want control over your returns experience and to be able to manually make a decision on a case by case basis.

Accepting that sellers want control, the fact remains that for the majority of sellers they’ll be accepting returns whether they like it or not an it’s just a case of when they get around to begrudgingly clicking the button to accept and that’s why eBay are rolling out auto-accept returns.

The problem is that eBay have given up to 8 calendar days make a return decision. 8 days is a long time to keep a buyer hanging around and if some sellers have been lax in responding it’s not surprising that eBay are taking action. However as is often the case eBay may be making policy to address the behaviour of the very worst sellers which unfortunately restricts the ability of the best sellers to offer sterling service.

Current eBay seller returns options

  • Accept the return.
  • Refund the buyer and allow them to keep the item.
  • Offer a partial refund and allow them to keep the item.
  • Send the buyer a message if you need more information, or can help them resolve their issue without returning the item.

eBay Automated returns options

Sellers have already been able to save time by automating responses to return requests that meet certain criteria

  • Send a refund

    Let the buyer keep the item and automatically send a refund based on the price and the return reason.

  • Approve a return

    Automatically approve a return based on the price and the return reason.

  • RMA number

    Let eBay know whether you’d like to include an RMA number to each return label.

What sellers are telling Tamebay

Here are just a small selection of the comments from Tamebay readers:

“This won’t work for large or heavy items where eBay can’t print out a postage label”

“There is no facility for offering an exchange or spare parts”

“Buyers will abuse returns using it as a try before you buy service”

“Buyers will choose the ‘Significantly Not As Described’ option as a way to get free postage. This will ultimately impact sellers leading to 4% surcharges”

“Sellers are to become ‘hire’ shops”

What should you do about returns?

There is one sure fire way to side step eBay returns and that is to make it super easy for your customer to get in touch with you at the point where they open the parcel.

Some sellers have their own returns portal, either on their own website or on a third party platform. Including returns information in every outgoing parcel and offering a comprehensive set of returns options is clearly more attractive then simply returning a parcel through eBay. Returns options you could offer could include: I changed my mind; Didn’t fit – Exchange for different size; Didn’t fit – Refund please; Missing part; Ordered wrong item and any other options appropriate to your business.

Taking returns off eBay does two things for sellers – it gives you the opportunity to rescue the sale if it’s a case of the buyer not reading the instructions or wanting an exchange of size. It also removes the return from eBay’s view so that they can’t measure your returns rates or, with the 4% surcharges looming in October, eBay don’t get to see how many times a buyer claims items were not as described.

Other sellers may include returns labels with a check list of returns reason on their packing slips. Offering the buyer a simple way to immediately rebox the item and return it can sidestep the eBay returns process.

If you don’t have a returns portal, you can still take steps to reduce returns on eBay. Even something as simple as including a business card with your customer support number or mobile phone prominently displayed can encourage customers to phone you rather than complain through eBay.

eBay won’t thank Tamebay for suggesting you offer a superior returns experience that doesn’t involve the buyer reporting the return on eBay. It’s something that we know many sellers are already considering however and it would be remiss of us not to suggest it’s one possible option you could consider.

29 Responses

  1. By choice, the majority of my items are large letter size items and cost me around 70p to post. I had a return opened the other day because the buyer didn’t like the item but he chose ‘something is wrong’ which meant I was supposed to pay for the return.

    The eBay return label is £3+, the item in question was £2.79 with post included. Are eBay seriously going to force sellers to pay more than the item cost for a return label?

    Just more evidence that nobody at eBay understands how retail actually works in the real world. They’re clueless.

  2. I have lost count of the number of times a buyer has messaged me before buying an item to try and get money off and then as soon as they get it I get a message saying something is wrong they would like a refund or pre paid postage label.
    Now buyers get to play the return lottery with a win win everytime with a guarantee of a full refund and keep the item or they get a pre paid postage label.
    Then you get the standard line from ebay telling you to report the buyer so we can monitor them.

  3. We all know it will be abused and unmanaged as normal, eBay attracts the con artists and the scammers you name it if it is going to go wrong it will be a eBay SALE…been at this years 99.9% of issues we have ever had have been eBay, and am sure am not the only one.

    This is WHY the site is now in rapid decline, good sellers and good buyers have had enough of it…they are just interested in fleecing us more and more every day.

  4. I had same experience. Guy didnt like it what he bought however it did say its been a used carpart. So he asked for a refund instead ive offered a 15pounds refund. Instead of me having to pay for return. So he agreed. Got the money than he said he dont want item want a full refund. Which he did and he he kept.item.too. and i couldnt do a thing. Thats why i just stopped selling anything on ebay. They are scu.

  5. My understanding is that eBay seriously frown on sellers including contact details within parcels; the risk of sales being organised away from eBay being their concern. With contact details being included, dubious buyers will likely exploit it; think blackmail.

    Plus, allowing a return outside eBay leaves dubious buyers able to then raise another return request from within eBay. The goods may have already been returned, but what’s to stop them raising a second request? Nothing. And, as eBay don’t accept communications from outside eBay, will sellers have a leg to stand on, trying to fight the case? You’ll likely have your work cut out.

  6. In an ideal world, buyers would read the Item Description before placing an order. Then, when they received the item, they’d look carefully within the package received, to ensure they found everything included. Then, they’d follow the instructions that tell them exactly what to do.

    Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world.

    This means some buyers raise return requests because they don’t poke their finger in that little hole in the cardboard, underneath all the other stuff, and find the remaining stuff they think is missing. Or, they have a stab at putting something together, mess it up and then decide the item must be faulty. I’ve experienced both. Each of them resulting in SNAD return requests.

    Today, there’s an opportunity to help resolve the issue and everyone is able to carry on, without the need for a return. Simply by asking questions and helping the buyer.

    Tomorrow, eBay will put a mark against my account. They will infer that I have caused a bad buyer experience. I have somehow been negligent and caused the buyer to suffer.

    The mere fact a return request has been raised will now count against me, in terms of this new service metrics.

    eBay think this is fair. Like hell it is.

    Me resolving these types of issue, as I do today, is clearly an inconvenience to eBay. Instead, they’d rather capitalise on my future inability to resolve buyer issues, because I won’t be given an option to do so. So, rather than making life easier for buyers, in such circumstances, they’re actually making life harder for buyers and sellers. Making it a lot less personal. Maybe this is a precursor for eBay’s future plans to box shift themselves; becoming another Amazon. Now there’s an idea!!!

    Nice one eBay!

  7. I think one of the issues is that buyers using the eBay app do not get to see the product description unless they search for it and select the right box to view it. In my experience, many sellers do not fully understand what they are purchasing because this information is hidden, this, of course, leads to more returns. The eBay platform these days seems to consist of many design flaws that result in sellers having to pay higher fees for not meeting eBay’s unrealistic goals. I hate to say it, but the more I use eBay the more I start to think that these issues are deliberate. eBay is now in a position where it can profit from not just the positives of every sale but also the negatives!

    I will finally be leaving eBay before the end of the month.

  8. Sold Bonmarche top for £3 + postage. Buyer did not like it because back and front pattern did not match up completely. I said most retailers clothes do not have patterns that match (because they cannot afford to do so). I agreed refund and said she could keep top as I would be out of pocket if I had to pay return postage. eBay said they would rule on it and I said they would side with buyer which they said was nonsense but turns out to be true. Buyer also left negative feedback before I had chance to look at the photos she sent me. Reported buyer for this as she should have waited but heard nothing from eBay. Could not leave negative feedback for them as I could only put positive for my experience or report them which I had done already to no effect. Up till then had 100% rating.

  9. This is extremely worrying as we sell items that can sometimes be defective like tools. In most cases we can get the supplier to right it off or they even collect it from the buyer themselves. It means we can simply refund the buyer but we do have to check first with the supplier so it cant be handled through eBay automation rules. Automatic labels at £3+ each time is a cost we can avoid in most cases but with this new rule it means we now have added costs to cover regardless. Surely if the issue is that some bad sellers don’t deal with returns until the last minute, then eBay should surely just reduce the time to respond by. Instead they’ve gone from 8 days to zero and automatic. They swing this by saying it’s to help sellers avoid cases and bad metrics but they can solve both this and customer satisfaction by just reducing the 8 days down to say 2 days … At least that gives sellers a chance to right off goods if they want to. This doesn’t help sellers at all, it’s just penalising them and putting costs up for us.

  10. Ebay is turning into Amazon….Scammers paradise. So if you go on holiday and a return happens and you don’t reply then your metrics go down.
    I will trade on Ebay but with just a few listings and then

  11. eBay say this results in many people asking eBay to step in. If you enforce this, sellers will leave the platform in massive numbers and before long you will not have enough sellers to support the platform.

    eBay seem to forget that they have absolutely nothing without sellers yet we are treated like dirt.

    Drastic decisions will have to be made by millions of sellers and this is your fault.

  12. The last time I used an E-Bay returns service, the item, though properly packed was damaged during the return shipping. I phoned E-Bay to find out how to claim through the insurance, guess what, no insurance, I lost £100 that day.

    I also have an existing contract for returns which I will now be technically in breach of.

    Deeply unhappy about this change.

  13. Tyler,

    In this instance, the buyer had opened an ebay return because the item was missing a piece. My fault, no argument. I ended up using an ebay returns label as I was transitioning from RM DMO to C&D at that time and it was not quite up and running.

    I would challenge your statement because this is an ebay return, and given the parcel had been returned (regardless of the condition), ebay would simply have refunded the customer from my account when the time period on the return expired.

    I challenged E-Bay on the legality of this, and why it was not made clear that the label offered included no insurance, the CS rep became quite nasty about it.

    I agree that logically, the matter should be sorted out between the buyer/E-Bay/E-Bay’s courier, but given this is E-Bay, I am sure we would all agree that there is a logic and common sense gap at times.

    The forced use of E-Bay’s returns labels is, in my view, nothing other than a revenue grab. Sadly, the service offered means we are all going to pay parcel rates whether the items are parcel or letter sized, who knows what will happen if the parcel is larger than their courier will take, this is free returns via the back door because there is no way to fight anything, and to top it off, anything which comes back has no insurance cover !

    Thankfully I don’t get many returns, and I make, lets call it ‘healthy’ use of the buyer block list for customers who set alarm bells ringing with their conduct either pre or post transaction. Nevertheless, I think this policy change is nothing short of outrageous.

  14. Tyler,

    I cannot add anything to what you say about Amazon, I don’t do any business on there as it does not fit my market (collectables).

    I have items for sale on E-Bay ranging from a few pounds up to a couple of thousand pounds, all of the more expensive items are shipped with insurance.

    It is a horrifying prospect that one of the more expensive items might be sent back uninsured, particularly as some people seem to think that a sheet of brown paper for packaging will do because Postie hand carry’s everything to its destination on a silver tea tray.

    I quite understand that if I don’t like it, I can always go somewhere else, and for my expensive items, I may end up doing exactly that. I am not making best use of Facebook and our website at the moment, and this may just be the kick in the pants required to shift more valuable items off of E-Bay entirely.

    I spoke to a CS Rep this afternoon who acknowledged the issues we have discussed, and said they have already been passed back up the line. Who knows to what end, if any.

  15. Sell 3x more on Amazon than eBay yet I processed my most recent batch of returns and all 10/10 were from eBay!…These automated returns are a big problem…It is a flawed and will cause me to bump up all my prices on eBay

  16. Ebay want returns, the more returns they can add to our metrics the better. They want us all to pay the 4% penalty charge each month.

    My peers all have either zero or less than half a percent returns according to ebay, so I am always above them….surprise….surprise.

    Even if a return request times out and you had done all you could for the buyer. Swiftly accepted the return, provided a postal label and the buyer decided not to return the item, if the original reason was a SNAD that counts too.

    If your buyer made a mistake thought an item was faulty and put a SNAD return request in. And you help them with their misunderstanding and they admit their mistake and close the return request. That counts too.

    Even if you prove a misuse of return has occurred that counts too.

    Why not just admit it ebay the fees are going up to 14% rather than do all this false metrics to make out we are bad sellers.

  17. Something else I am interested in. Ebay have asked all sellers to add tracking when dispatching items and they cannot add the details later if an item not received claim is raised

    Do they apply the same rule to buyers returning items that they are paying postage themselves?

    I ask because if they are shortening the time to check the items before refund it helps the seller having tracking. I check it to see when it will arrive and make sure I am in when the postman delivers. Without tracking and no message telling the seller the item is in the post a valuable day could be lost, if you miss the postman. Also it saves time if the item gets lost in the post to process if the tracking is already on eBay.


eBay Appoints Amy Bannerman as its in-house Pre-Loved Style Director

Step inside eBay’s Love Island shared wardrobe

eBay's fourth annual Recommerce Report

eBay’s fourth annual Recommerce Report

Wahaaj Shabbir - From sneakerhead to Head of Sneakers at eBay UK

Wahaaj Shabbir – From sneakerhead to Head of Sneakers at eBay UK

eBay UK returns as Love Island sponsor to promote pre-loved fashion

eBay UK returns as Love Island sponsor to promote pre-loved fashion

eBay Roadshow Belfast - 13th June

eBay Roadshow Belfast – 13th June

ChannelX Guide...

Featured in this article from the ChannelX Guide – companies that can help you grow and manage your business.


Take a look through a selection of the latest articles on ChannelX

Register for Newsletter

Receive 5 newsletters per week

Gain access to all research

Be notified of upcoming events and webinars