Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sun Apr 1 2012 21:58:14

eBay Buyer Protection Changes Include Partial Refunds, Returns

By: Ina Steiner

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Sellers are concerned over changes to the eBay Buyer Protection Policy that will allow eBay to issue partial refunds to buyers without requiring them to return the item to the seller. Sellers are talking on several eBay discussion boards about a letter they say eBay sent only sent to buyers.

One poster explained why it has sellers upset: "It's a BIG DEAL because eBay gets to decide the value of a partial refund not the SELLER, and it seems the seller doesn't even get the choice of saying "no partial, return for full refund". eBay can't inspect the item to know what's missing etc (if it IS so) they'll rely on the word of a buyer who wants money back?"

The provision that has sellers buzzing is the following:

"In some cases, we may refund part of the cost of the item to the buyer to cover differences between the item described and the item actually received, in which case we will try to recover that refund amount from the seller and not ask the buyer to return the item to the seller."

Another change in the Buyer Protection Policy that eBay's letter did not mention is the parenthetical statement in the following paragraph:

"If we resolve an item not as described case in the buyer's favor, we will in most circumstances ask the buyer to return the item to the seller (and the seller needs to accept the return even if the seller's return policy indicated "no returns accepted") before we refund the buyer and try to recover the refund amount from the seller."

The letter, sent last week to some registered users, states:

Dear (buyer name),
I'm writing to let you know about important updates to the eBay Buyer Protection Policy that will go into effect on June 19, 2012:

A provision has been added that in some cases we may refund part of the cost of the item to the buyer and receive reimbursement from the seller to cover differences between the item described and the item actually received, such as small parts missing or minor repairs needed. In these cases, we will not require the buyer to return the item to the seller.

A clarification has been included that delivery signature confirmation for items $250 or more is only required in order to protect sellers from losing a case where such service is offered by at least one shipping company. Similarly, when we ask a buyer to return a $250 or more item to the seller, delivery signature confirmation is required if it is offered by at least one shipping company.

A clarification has been made that items purchased from the Businesses & Websites for Sale category will not be covered by eBay Buyer Protection.

A provision has been added regarding the relationship between eBay Buyer Protection and the new managed return process. If a buyer uses the process to return to an item purchased from an eligible transaction under that process, and the seller fails to provide a timely refund in accordance with the new process, the buyer may file a case under eBay Buyer Protection. If we resolve the case in the buyer's favor, we'll refund the buyer, the amount of which will depend on the terms and conditions of the process.

As with earlier updates, other changes have been made to keep the eBay Buyer Protection Policy up-to-date with our product and service offerings.Thanks,
Heraldo Botelho
eBay Buyer Protection Policy
eBay Inc.

One seller reacted to the letter by writing, "Taking the buyer's side in a he said-she said and requiring the return of an item for a refund is one thing but how on Earth do they think this is a good idea?  I'd really like to know what's supposed to stop a buyer from claiming missing pieces in order to get a forced discount aside from eBay's standard "if a buyer does it enough, we'll maybe look into it." They're seriously going to start letting buyers keep the item and a portion of the money based solely on their word? This is insanity. Regardless of what eBay puts in their TOS, I find it difficult to believe this is legal."

You can find the current eBay Buyer Protection Policy on this page - it went into effect on June 20, 2011 - and you can access the eBay Buyer Protection policy effective June 19, 2012 at the bottom of that page.

Comments (71) | Leave Comment | Permalink
Readers Comments

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This user has validated their user name. by: basset

Mon Apr 2 20:52:13 2012

I used to have problems with buyers contacting me about really nit-picky things after a sale - hinting that a discount would make things better. Once I added to the description that 'if there is an issue with the item, the item MUST be returned - NO partial refunds' the abuse ended. Now, if an item is returned, I just re-sell it or if it really does have an issue, damage it out. I can see where pre-owned items can be at issue if buyers start second guessing what they paid & eBay accomodates by lowering the price. Grrr....

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This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Mon Apr 2 22:25:07 2012

What's next? Forced price-matching?

''Welcome to eBay! If you can find a lower price on any item listed at eBay, we will REFUND the difference (plus 10%) on behalf of your seller. ~ We do this because customers have told us that this is what they want. ~ It's the industry standard. ~ We're meeting expectations. ~ We want our customers to be delighted.''

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by: 16mmfilmseller This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 2 23:24:54 2012

This sounds an awful lot like an April Fool's Joke... I just skimmed the new policy and found no mention of this, and note the posting date... If this is in fact real, please post a link to the section of the policy that spells it out, and please post a link to an actual copy of the email ebay allegedly sent.

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by: Another Coin This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 2 23:33:49 2012

I remember a few years ago eBay discouraged me from giving partial refunds. A buyer made up flaws that weren't there and wanted a partial refund. It was a low cost item, so I relented. Found out within the week eBay kicked her off and she was no longer registered.  So now eBay wants the scamming buyers to stay and the only ''no longer a registered users'' are sellers who closed up shop or were kicked off by eBay. Completely messed up.

Once the last of the small sellers have left, will buyers really want to come to eBay to buy from the Diamond sellers? I don't care how much eBay tries to monkey's Amazon, it will NEVER be. Amazon is considered reputable. Who thinks the same of eBay? The public is seeing through all the lies.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Mon Apr 2 23:41:23 2012

@ 16MM: If it's an April Fool's joke, then it's a cruel one. (But the fact that someone thought of it in the first place, and the fact that people like myself believe it, certainly reveals a lot about the distrust we have in eBay.)

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by: Lawrence A Dickerson This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 2 23:56:18 2012

I continually see sellers complaining how terrible eBay is and that they are leaving,going to leave,already have left,thinking about leaving and every related thought in between.

I have never yet seen a seller admit to mistakes that might have  helped to generate these  seemingly unjust changes.Why is that??

There are many buyers who have been around for as long as the oldest seller and have seen the changes in the selling platforms.Most of us  have been raked over the coals by unscrupulous tactics.Some of you have used and abused us buyers,costing us money.You were king of the camp for many years and then buyers became tired of the shenanigans  and loss of funds.We petitioned eBay,proving to them the mistreatment and'stolen'funds.They began to listen.

Don't blame eBay for making corrections to their venue in order to make it a level playing field.I ask my sellers if they have experienced what this group complains about day in and day out.Not one has registered a major complaint.

Whom do I believe,the people on AB,who by the way,normally the only voices heard,or do believe my own sellers?I purchase a great amount and I have never been more pleased with eBay in the more than ten years I have been a member.My sellers appear to be happy so why is it the same faces on each issue griping about the same issues and calling people names?You give this fine web site a bad rep by your constant complaints.Behind every complaint should be a suggestion.I hope you taught your children differently.

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by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 3 00:07:44 2012

Wow Larry Dick---

IF you hate us as much as we hate the weird world of ebay than---leave.

Until then---if you keep coming back here---you will keep reading the words of sellers---or former sellers---who feel betrayed and used by ebays current and former management.  

I am pretty sure that there are other readers who do NOT post but those who DO are willing to put their views on the line as they see it.

As for the Topic At Hand---I too have seen my views/sales plummet in the past few weeks/months.  I have had my ebay Messages sent via some unknown new outgoing sending address and thus become visible only as SPAM leading me to scramble to FIND the mail and find out what was going on with my account---such as SALES---the few I had!-any QUESTIONS;  and announcements.  Was this an oversight on ebays part?  I somehow don't think so as it would have been easy to shoot out a mass email to say---Hey we are changing something and you will need to "allow" our mail into your email in box.

And why oh why when I DO get sales they are "clustered" in either one part of the country or the world ie Australia?  

Not happening to do a "partial refund" this is definatly THEFT OF SERVICE  also RESTRAINT OF TRADE and oh what WAS that other illegal move DELTAMASTER commented on?

Could this be a RICO violation?

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This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Tue Apr 3 00:08:14 2012

Oh, Lawrence... you're as ''cold as ice''.

I only got as far as the first sentence of the 2nd paragraph. I stopped reading when I realized it was your typical same-old same-old.

Imagine that... when I tire of *your* BS, I stop reading it. Full stop. Mid-sentence. It's easy to do.

If you're tired of ''continually seeing sellers complain''... then I'd advise you to do the same. It's easy.

Surely you can find something to entertain yourself other than taunting and ridiculing us. What purpose does it serve you to do such things?

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by: KEEPING A CLOSE EYE ON THEM ALL! This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Tue Apr 3 07:02:19 2012

Re: DICK
Waht a moron.
Enough said.

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by: wallflower This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 3 09:20:41 2012

@16mmfilmseller: This is buried in the buyer protection update for June 2012:

''In some cases, we may refund part of the cost of the item to the buyer to cover differences between the item described and the item actually received, in which case we will try to recover that refund amount from the seller and not ask the buyer to return the item to the seller.''

Wish it was a joke! What a nightmare.

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by: 16mmfilmseller This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 3 10:23:34 2012

@wallflower - found it - good grief, are they serious? This really did sound like an April fools joke... How can ebay possibly have any idea of the value of something - especially if it's a rare collectible... Ugh.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Tue Apr 3 11:45:50 2012

I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but all of these small steps do seem to be heading in the same direction. Also, another commenter talked about how eBay is now controlling our photos and it occurred to me that perhaps they're looking for all of us sellers to provide our photos to their catalog for free. Is there text in any of the agreements or the new photo rules that gives eBay ownership of photos uploaded to their servers? Disallowing added text to the photos makes it seem like they want to be free to use the pictures for other purposes... If this is true, it's rather disturbing.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Tue Apr 3 11:50:06 2012

16MM asks: ''How can ebay possibly have any idea of the value of something - especially if it's a rare collectible''

You're right... the can't possibly know. ~ I think that the entire purpose of such an idiotic policy is to make the venue SO unpalatable to small sellers that we just up-and-leave on our own.

I think that eBay fears the bad publicity that would result if they were to suddenly give all the ''undesirable'' small sellers an unceremonious heave-ho... ''You're Fired!''

But... by tightening the noose, poisoning the well, increasing our risk, cutting our profit, reducing our visibility, creating unreasonable standards, etc... eBay is causing small sellers to leave or go out of business.

Either way, eBay can stand back and smugly claim ''no-responsibility''. If questioned about it, eBay will claim that the small sellers ''left voluntarily''... or that the small sellers ''couldn't-hack-it''.

I CAN'T WAIT to hear how Uncle Griff tries to spin this!! Predictions anyone? ~~ He'll probably trot out the tired and well-worn justification that it's an ''industry standard'' and that ''buyers expect it''.

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by: SleepyTime This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 3 12:10:35 2012

16mm - How can ebay possibly have any idea of the value of something

I have to laugh at Ebay when they send me an email about getting my collectible at a certain percentage off.  Buy this Beswick Foal at 17% off the regular price.  And the regular price they list is three times what I value my Beswicks at.  In one fell sweep, Ebay raises the value of my collection by 200 percent.

Yeah, right....

At least look like you know that you are doing Ebay if you are going to put a value on something.  Collectibles are not like a new electronic device that you have MSRP for.

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by: pennyrub This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 3 12:11:26 2012

Hey Dick, this is not a friendly place for sellers who are doing well on Ebay.  And yes, you do run into the same whiners over and over here.

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by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 3 12:52:43 2012

What's it going to take for the rest of the small sellers to finally leave this booby-hatch?  Now they will decide just what your profit will be because they have the power to return some of it to the buyer?  I have one item on ebay at present.  I treat them the same way I treat Las Vegas when I go to gamble....I don't spend any more than I'm willing to lose!  Ebay is now much the same as that.  I'd rather burn my stock then just give it away while Ebay profits.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Tue Apr 3 14:25:36 2012

Patricia wants to know: ''What's it going to take for the rest of the small sellers to finally leave this booby-hatch?''

I've often wondered that myself, Patricia. It's difficult to tell if the ones who remain are doing so blindly and not realizing what's going on around them.

I suppose that's possible for a small minority of sellers, but the most likely explanation is that the small sellers who remain do so because they feel they have no other options. The ''battered-spouse'' analogy might apply here.

There are many small sellers who, over the years, have come to *depend on* the extra income that they can earn through eBay. It's not just the so-called ''hobby sellers'' that I'm talking about. There are many sellers who supplement their retirement income... the unemployed/under-employed... homemakers... students... you name it.

These folks are continually confronted with ever-increasing work and effort and risk, for a continually shrinking piece of the pie. Yes, they have the option to leave, but the thought of giving up 100% of their extra income is much more frightening than having eBay whittle-away at it.

Another thing to consider about those who stay: are they highly-technical people? Or, do the possess the basic skills needed to set-up and run their own web site? (Assuming that their items, and overall volume, was suitable for a stand-alone site.)

There are probably just as many small sellers who *willingly* abandon eBay as there are small sellers who have been forced off of eBay against their will.

Next... of those small sellers who are still at eBay, you'll likely find a large percentage who are actively making plans to leave, and exploring other options to diversify.

It makes me sad to realize that the first group of people---the ones who *depend* on eBay income---are the very ones who can least afford to take the abuse that eBay heaps upon them. Because the *need* and depend on that income, they probably don't have any sort of financial cushion that will soften the blow when eBay finally drop-kicks them to the sidelines. Their lack of extra funds probably plays a role in their inability to experiment with, and to take a little time to get the hang of how the alt-venues might work for them.

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This user has validated their user name. by: elpereles

Tue Apr 3 15:14:35 2012

@Lawrence, you are right the are some bad sellers in eBay, but also bad buyers.

As a buyer I saw it by myself, but as far I saw not matter how many rules/protection eBay add to their sites. Everyday they are taking out some of the good ones meanwhile the bad sellers are still in the site as the ''Untouchables''.

@KEEPING A CLOSE EYE ON THEM ALL!, it isn't needed to go to the same level as the ''lawrence''.

Now looking all these crazy policies in eBay. I will thanks to all that stupid bad sellers that are allowing eBay adding new policies. Like the no more paper payments, add delivery confirmation, and fees for S&H.

I was thinking in the past week about the ''5 stars'' for free S&H. I will not be surprise if eBay drop the idea or add more requirements for it.  

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by: LSP This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 3 16:01:53 2012

Great. This policy is like a gift from the Gods for the "...it smells like smoke" scammers.

No need to prove the item is damaged either, because the damage is invisible.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 3 16:17:00 2012

@pennyrub

Penny .. whiners?

Since you dont mind, I think I'll drop by YOUR business and tell YOU how to run it ... would you like that?

And btw who exactly are these people who are doing so well on eBay? Even a few Diamonds that I know PERSONALLY dont have anything nice to say about eBay.

They are in 3 DIFFERENT businesses so you cant say the pressure or issues are all ''in 1 place''.

My company my brother works for is a Platinum eBay account in the car stereo business. Its gotten so BAD with the returns, with VERO, with buyer abuse that they are looking to exit eBay. At this point they will no longer add new listings, and use Amazon Prime to fill orders. They are a $100 million dollar company .. are they big enough for you?

Example #2 ... my best friend who works for one of the LARGEST baby product sellers on eBay ... they are MORE then a $100 million company. They too are tired of eBays crap. Just like in my brothers case, AMAZON FBA is thier entire focus. They were asked about where they source from (direct from 30 manufactorers) has bizzare limits placed on them (selling limits and returns policies) and more. Tell ya a secret which you would think would help but doesnt ... they have over $100K in paypal at any given time - so theres no ''worrying about fraud'' in their case.

Third case... I was the buyer for them in CE. They too cant handle the BS that eBay spills out. And again, Amazon FBA is thier choice of where to do business.

How many examples do you need before you appologize and realize that we arent just whiners!?

We (at least me - I wont speak for Annie, Ric etc) want eBay to succeed. I ship EVERYTHING same day, I only sell what I own and I comply with ALL Federal and State laws .. all I want is abit of fairness... is that too much to ask from eBay?

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