I'm sure you've heard tales of disgruntled buyers on eBay (and let's be honest, some scammers), causing a problem for good, honest sellers. Perhaps you've encountered them before, which puts you off selling now. If your eBay buyer opened a case against you then this guide will help you throughout the process.
When you sell on eBay, both buyers and sellers are protected. It is important to remember this, and if you follow the correct procedures, as a seller, you will be protected. An example of this happened to me a few months ago.
Money was extremely tight as I was just about to quit my job without another one to go to. I sold a pair of trousers on eBay for around £5. When the buyer received them, she was unhappy as they weren't described as 3/4 length instead of full length.
I disagreed with the buyer over this, but I agreed to give her a refund once I'd received the trousers back. She then told me that not only did she want me to pay the postage for her to return the trousers (which, by the way, as a private seller, you do not have to do), she wanted the refund before returning the trousers.
I responded in a polite and professional manner, explaining that I didn't have to offer her a refund in the first place, and I wouldn't be paying for her to return the trousers – certainly not giving her a refund before I received them back.
All of these messages were sent through the resolution center on eBay, and when I was getting nowhere, I escalated the case to customer service. A few moments later I received an email telling me that the buyer had received a refund. Great – I thought eBay had automatically sided with the buyer and that was that.
Until I checked my PayPal balance to find that I still had the money. Reading the email once again – eBay had refunded the buyer AND given me my money back. Result!
When a case has been opened against you for an item not received, Paypal will automatically place a hold on the full amount (purchase price and postage) in your account.
If you don't have enough in your account then your balance will go into negative numbers. When you then go to pay for anything through Paypal, Paypal will try to take the held amount AND the amount to cover the payment you're trying to complete.
When your item is low value this isn't too much of a problem, but if a large amount has been placed on hold then you could face difficulties.
There are a few types of cases that an eBay buyer can open. They are:
- Item not received
- Item not as described
- I want to return the item for a refund
Item not received
eBay recently made an awful (in my opinion) change to their cases. Now, if a buyer messages you to ask where an item is, they will automatically open an “item not received” case. Please don't be mad at the buyer for escalating the case quickly – they were probably just trying to email you to ask about it, and now eBay is jumping the gun.
You need to take a few things into consideration. Firstly, have you actually posted the item? If you print your postage via eBay then items will automatically be marked as dispatched, but if you get the postage printed at the Post Office, or use a courier, you will need to manually mark each item as dispatched.
You need to check that you have done this in the time frame you said you would (when listing the item) and that the buyer has given enough time for the item to arrive. If it has been a week or so since posting, to the United Kingdom, you probably need to start worrying.
Royal Mail asks that you wait 15 working days from when the item was posted to submit a claim. Make sure that you have the proof of postage for your item. Sending our parcels via Royal Mail automatically gives you up to £20 cover for compensation for lost or damaged mail, but you cannot claim without the proof of postage.
It is free of charge and most Post Office staff are more than happy to provide them for you. Our Post Office has no problem providing us with proof of postage, enough though we print all our postage at home. If your item is likely to sell for over £20 then it is a very good idea to offer recorded delivery, so that you can provide a tracking number. I actually
You need to check that you have done this in the time frame you said you would (when listing the item) and that the buyer has given enough time for the item to arrive. If it has been a week or so since posting, to the United Kingdom, you probably need to start worrying. Royal Mail asks that you wait 15 working days from when the item was posted to submit a claim.
Make sure that you have the proof of postage for your item. Sending our parcels via Royal Mail automatically gives you up to £20 cover for compensation for lost or damaged mail, but you cannot claim without the proof of postage. It is free of charge and most Post Office staff are more than happy to provide them for you.
Our Post Office has no problem providing us with proof of postage, enough though we print all our postage at home. If your item is likely to sell for over £20 then it is a very good idea to offer recorded delivery, so that you can provide a tracking number. I actually
If it has been a week or so since posting, to the United Kingdom, you probably need to start worrying. Royal Mail ask that you wait 15 working days from when the item was posted to submit a claim. Make sure that you have the proof of postage for your item.
Sending our parcels via Royal Mail automatically gives you up to £20 cover for compensation for lost or damaged mail, but you cannot claim without the proof of postage. It is free of charge and most Post Office staff are more than happy to provide them for you.
Our Post Office has no problem providing us with proof of postage, enough though we print all our postage at home. If your item is likely to sell for over £20 then it is a very good idea to offer recorded delivery, so that you can provide a tracking number.
I actually don't offer recorded delivery as most of the item, items selling for over £20 are being sent by Collect+ anyway, which provides its own tracking.
Be sure to tell your buyer to check things on their end too. This includes making sure no one else living with them has put the parcel somewhere, ensuring it isn't in their safe place and then also checking at their local sorting office in case a “while you were out” letter wasn't left.
In all the time that I've been selling, I've only ever had two parcels go missing, the most recent has been in the last 6 weeks. That's not to say that it doesn't happen, but it does make me very wary of buyers claiming to have not received an item.
Once you have proof that you've sent the item, you can breath a bit easier. If you can't find proof that you've sent it then be sure to check everywhere. I've had a parcel remain in the boot of my car or roll under a car seat. I've also been human and sometimes real life has got in the way of sending an item out, or I've just forgotten.
As long as you're honest with your buyers and offer them a choice of you sending the item out by a certain date or a full refund, they're pretty nice about it.
If you've sent the parcel using recorded delivery then you can use Royal Mail's track and trace function to locate the parcel. If it has been delivered then you can see this and provide the signature it was signed with. Perhaps it has been delivered to a neighbour, or sent to the local sorting office, awaiting collection.
Should you put a return address on your parcels? I do, simply because eBay/Paypal postage automatically does this. I have never had a parcel returned to me as undelivered, and putting my address on has actually bitten me in the arse. I sent an item off, and the buyer returned it to me, without sending me a message through eBay. I think in the long run it is better to put an address on so that mail can be returned if Royal Mail are unable to deliver it.
If you only have the proof of postage then it will be up to you to refund the buyer straight away, and to claim from Royal Mail for the missing item. You will be required to provide a print out of the Paypal transaction, showing how much your item sold for, and fill out a Lost, damaged or Delayed mail claim form.
If you don't have access to a printer, or, like me, you're cheap, you can ask for a copy of the claim form from your local Post Office, but you will still be required to print out the Paypal transaction to attach to your form. You then send the completed form and evidence to a free post address and wait what feels like 100 years before the investigation is complete and Royal Mail give you your compensation.
Further down I'll cover what you can do if you think that the eBay buyer is lying.
Item not as described
I hate that this is a claim! As I mentioned above, I thought a photo clearly showed that a pair of trousers were 3/4 length, but the buyer was unhappy because I hadn't mentioned it.
The best way to combat cases like this is to make sure they don't happen in the first place. This means taking lots of photos and showing any defects or marks. eBay now allows you to have 12 photos for free in every category, so you can provide your buyers with lots of detailed photos.
Just because something is damaged, it doesn't mean that a buyer won't want it. Show holes on clothes – someone might be a keen sewer and be more than happy to fix a hole to slash the cost. If you have the time, take measurements of your items and just generally describe them well.
Once a buyer has opened an “item, not as described” case, it could go either way. Again, Paypal will place a hold on your funds, and you will have to resolve this between yourself and the buyer. If you believe that you have a strong case and you can provide proof, then fight the case.
Otherwise, it may be easier, in the long run, to ask your buyer to return the item for a refund. I had a buyer who bought £80 worth of games from me for £30. They were new games – still in the wrapping.
When they arrived, he opened a case against me because some of the cellophane had ripped. I checked out his other items, and he's actually a game seller – and had the games he'd just bought from me listed (for much more than he paid me. Which is fine, I bought the games for £1 in the first place!).
I responded to his case stating that he could return them for a full refund – and he was having none of it. He wanted a partial refund, getting the already heavily reduced games for a discount.
I declined and said I would only offer a full refund – pointing out that he already had the games listed on eBay. As I'm sure you can imagine, that case got closed very quickly. I also used eBay's “report this buyer” function, and a few months later, my negative feedback from this buyer was removed.
As a private seller, you are under no obligation pay postage for the item to be refunded to you. This is between the buyer and seller to decide. These cases really can go anyway, and if you cannot reach a suitable conclusion then feel free to escalate it to eBay customer service.
I want to return the item for a refund
As a private seller, you are under no obligation to offer returns on your items, and you are exempt from the Distance Selling Regulations. However, you may wish to choose whether you accept a return based on the individual circumstances. If you do decide to accept a return, you must refund the buyer the full price, and you are under no obligation to pay the postage for them to return the item(s).
Remember: Always be polite when sending messages through the resolution centre. These can be seen by eBay customer service, and they're more likely to reach an agreement that favours you if you have been polite.
eBay buyers can be vindictive. If you have a bad dealing with someone, it is a good idea to block them from bidding on your other items.
- How to save money on eBay
- Free 6 week money making course
- 5 things we do to decide what to buy to sell on eBay or resell
What to do if you suspect the eBay buyer is lying
Unfortunately, this does happen. Just a few weeks ago we had two item not received cases open up on eBay, to the same buyer. The two parcels were sent a few weeks apart and luckily we still had the proof of postage. I find it amazing to think that not just one, but two parcels, to the same person at the same address, would go missing.
But throughout all of this, we had to remain calm and professional, hinting at their lie without calling them a liar. The buyer then stated that he'd been having problems with Canada post, and if items weren't sent tracked then they'd be returned to the sender. Upon learning this, we asked him why
Upon learning this, we asked him why h, therefore,e hadn't opted for tracked delivery, which is an option we offer. No response, until a few days later, both his parcels just magically turned up, on the same day, despite being posted months ago. Strange that. Remember that you can get in touch with eBay to ask for their advice.
If you're going to get super Sherlock then you can have a look to see whether the eBayer is now selling on an item they said never arrived – it does happen! If your item is unique enough you can search on eBay and pull out any listings close to where the buyer lives, in case they're using a partner's/friend's eBay account.
You can also report a buyer if you think they've done any of the following:
- The buyer made unreasonable demands.
- The buyer left inappropriate Feedback.
- The buyer abused the eBay Buyer Protection process.
- The buyer misused returns.
- The buyer hasn't paid.
- Other problems.
Please don't let eBay cases put you off. They will happen. They seem to happen to me all at once. Just keep calm, remain professional and try your best to work it out with the buyer. If you'd like to explore other options then you may enjoy how to sell on Facebook or what to do when your eBay listing doesn't sell.