Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Tue Apr 8 2014 17:04:09

eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

By: Ina Steiner

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Since early March, eBay has been overriding sellers' return policies by substituting "no returns" with the wording, "Seller did not specify a returns policy. You are covered by the eBay Money Back Guarantee if you received an item that is not as described in the listing." A reader first reported this on the Letters to the Editor blog in March, and reports continue to come in - the changes are being made retroactively, with no warning and no way to fix listings to display a no-returns policy.

Today, an eBay seller wrote to EcommerceBytes, "I clearly specify NO RETURNS in all my listings and when I look at my listings eBay has changed them all to say seller has not specified a return policy. Did they do this to all sellers who say no returns?"

eBay spokesperson Ryan Moore told EcommerceBytes today that eBay was aware of the issue, and said a fix would be in place by tomorrow. The new verbiage will read: "Seller does not offer returns. You are covered by the eBay Money Back Guarantee if you received an item that is not as described in the listing."

Sellers had gotten mixed messages from eBay customer support. "When I first learned of this "glitch" and called eBay a few days ago," a seller wrote on FatWallet boards, "they did not tell me that this was a purposeful change. They let me think it was a glitch. I later learned what they had done and called back and they admitted it. I only found out because I had two buyers tell me that I had no return policy. I have also heard that they made this same change to listings that were completed months ago - effectively retroactively changing the return policy on listings that were completed as far back as December according to one seller. What next?"

eBay never announced a change in policy, nor did they announce a glitch, leaving sellers livid. "Ebay is a venue," wrote one seller on the eBay discussion boards who was impacted by the change. "It cannot legally change the terms of a sales contact between buyer and seller. THAT is what needs to be reported to the various state attorney generals."

An EcommerceBytes reader also wrote in, advising colleagues to write to their state Attorneys General. "While some people are not making much of a fuss, especially if they accept returns, but if they wake up and find their cozy 14-day return policy amended on their sales from last month to now read 90-days they may feel differently. Though, it is eBay's site to do as they please, parties being charged a fee for their services should not be subject to possible fraud and lack of concern when it is brought to their attention."

Update: Moore clarified that the initial change in wording was due to a technical issue, not a policy change.




Comments (32) | Leave Comment | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Tue Apr 8 18:02:53 2014

For those sellers with "no returns", ebay really is setting them up for "not as described" cases, negs, neutrals and the new defects. Regardless on how this is worded, glitch or policy..small sellers don't stand a chance. Making things retroactive or a lookback, just adds to sellers demise.  

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Tue Apr 8 18:14:37 2014

Under no circumstances could I ever be accused of being an eBay fan boy but, all eBay users are subject to eBay’s Terms of Business, which eBay can alter at will to protect themselves, and by which users, every time they log on to an eBay website, agree to be bound; that is the simple fact of the matter. In particular, in the case of professional “merchants”, it is a simple matter of the law of contract; unless eBay’s conditions can be found by a court of law to be “unconscionable” then that is the end of the matter. Ultimately, if you don’t like the contract offered by eBay, you are free to not enter into it …

“eBay is only a venue.” That classic expression of eBay’s utter disingenuousness surely wore thin a long time ago …

Regardless, eBay: where the incompetent mingle with the malevolent.—“Ming”

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Tue Apr 8 20:16:26 2014

Buyers are now opening cases when they want a partial refund.

What a looney tunes place to do business.  Seller protections my a**.

I think the best punishment for eBay management is for them to have to sell on eBay.

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

by: CNYC This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 8 20:57:55 2014

When you change a contract without the consent of either of the parties and then do so retroactively, the Attorney General's office will act on it. It is not legal, a large corporation such as Ebay should have a few attorneys giving advice on fraud and such prior to just changing terms on prior sales.

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

This user has validated their user name. by: Puck

Tue Apr 8 21:47:50 2014

I watch eBay management moves with the same sense of wonder one would have watching an elephant tap dancing.

Not amazed by their skill and agility but astounded they're ever able to accomplish anything at all.

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

by: shirley-u-geste-southwest This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 8 22:44:59 2014

Sorry Philip Cohen but you are being a total eBay apologist and fan boy, and quite frankly it turns my stomach.

Did you actually even read or do any research on what eBay did here? Did you take even 2 minutes to read the original letter to Ina on this issue?

You spout about contract law, but what eBay did was a direct violation of both contract law and state laws.

eBay changed the terms after the fact on closed listing contracts as far back as Dec of 2013. Which violates so many laws it makes you wonder where the eBay lawyers got their degrees.

eBay left the option of No Returns on the listing form, and then if a seller choose that they changed it after the fact to Seller did not specify a return policy, and they made this change without notifying the seller. But multiple states have laws that No Returns IS a legal return policy, including CA.

Val, who reported this to Ina first, did a lot of legal research on this matter and she and many other sellers filed complaints with State Attorney Generals offices in multiple states, including CA.

The CA AG took the complaint very seriously and has been investigating the matter. The response that eBay made to the complaint was laughable in their attempt to divert attention from their actions by pontificating on eBays SNAD program (which has nothing to do with regular returns) and on how sellers get more buyers if they take returns.

They made no attempt to address their actions of changing the terms on long closed contracts or not recognizing No Returns as a valid return policy even though they deal in interstate commerce and that violates multiple states laws.

Their attempts at obfuscation and diversion were apparently not taken too kindly by the CA AG who continued to investigate the case... and then this announcement.

Sure looks like they got their very dirty hands slapped for them to suddenly do a 180 on this issue.

This is one instance where sellers chose not to just bend over and take your apologists viewpoint of 'it's eBays TOS and if you don't like it leave'. They recognized the illegality of eBays actions and stood up in mass and brought it to the attention of agencies who deal with these issues.

And big, bang, boom. eBay is now caught with their hands full of illegal cookies from the cookie jar of greed and the policy is being changed back.

This just goes to show that sellers don't need to bend over when they feel that eBay has crossed the line in their actions.

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

by: val2525 This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 8 22:52:53 2014

In reply to Philip Cohen, the eBay User Agreement clearly states that the "actual contract for sale is directly between the sellers and buyers." Therefore, eBay does NOT have the legal right to change any wording that affects the contract of sale between seller and buyer.

Also in the same User Agreement, eBay states that "you (seller) will not post false, inaccurate, misleading, defamatory , or libelous content"; "You (seller) are responsible for the accuracy and content of the listing and item offered." By changing the wording of the no return policy selected by sellers, eBay has placed seller listings in direct violation of eBay's own User Policy, and in violation of states requiring an accurate and visible return policy, which includes "no returns".

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Tue Apr 8 23:27:50 2014

"Moore clarified that the initial change in wording was due to a technical issue, not a policy change."

How come ebay's policy changes all at once become technical issues or glitches? Ebay always thinks they are one step above the law.

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Wed Apr 9 00:10:19 2014

Glitch....my arse....

More likely, this was a deliberate act on eBay's part to see how many sellers would notice and complain. This is likely an intentional act in preparation for requiring all sellers to accept returns with a minimum return period eBay will dictate.

The laughable reality is that for the last 7 - 8 years, we have been hearing about changes and how they are made to get buyers coming back to grow sales. Yet, despite all the BS stories designed to sugar coat anti seller changes,the reality is that sales growth on eBay tells a different story.

While other market places post healthy growth statistics, eBay pats itself on the back when they eek out low double digit increases.

Mr Donahoe and his team need to wake up and realize that their strategy over the last 7 - 8 years has failed to produce the healthy, thriving selling environment that they claimed despite their buyer centric improvements.

Based on the low growth rates at eBay, it would appear that buyers are alienated by eBay's strategies, and that the turn around plan devised by Mr Donahoe is a total failure.

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

by: BargainzBabylon This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 9 00:34:11 2014

Phil - If you signed a contract to have your faucet replaced, and instead the plumber replaced your light switch and, when you complained, crossed out the work order, scribbled in what he wanted, then expected to be paid for it, you wouldn't consider that unconscionable business practice? I would consider it illegal.

Obviously eBay knows this, too, because they're retrenching.  I'm still baffled over who thought up that turkey of a scheme. Like we wouldn't notice? Really?

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

This user has validated their user name. by: Bill

Wed Apr 9 00:56:14 2014

eBay is run by a bunch of arrogant SOB's who thinks that we are all a bunch of idiots. The real idiots are sitting in San Jose playing their fiddle as Rome burns.

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Wed Apr 9 02:49:37 2014

The sandbox apologists, which most certainly does not and has never included Phillip Cohen, know diddly squat about contract law.

No user agreement can compel users to violate the law. No user agreement indemnifies ebafia permitting them to unilaterally breach contracts or violate the law with impunity as they do now and have been since the The Ho's ascension.

While the law in theory applies to ebafia, in fact it apparently does not.

I invite readers here to research the ungodly amount of political contributions this morally bankrupt criminal syndicate has made over the years.

How many Americans has The Ho and his henchman like Brian Burke put out of work in the last six years?

How many small American businesses has The Ho's anti American small business policies ruined?

Why does The Ho hate American sellers?

Why has The Ho been conducting a war against American ebay sellers?

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

by: ignatz This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 9 05:14:21 2014

"all eBay users are subject to eBay’s Terms of Business, which eBay can alter at will to protect themselves,"

Sorry Phil, most of the time your comments are spot-on, but this time I think it's a case of your not fully realizing what the issue is.

eBay, without notice, changed the wording that a buyer sees on a listing, in which the seller specified "No Returns Accepted", to "Seller has not specified a return policy".

This has NOTHING to do with the TOS.  It is simply an inaccurate representation of what the seller actually specified, ESPECIALLY because in two or three different places during the listing or ebay "Business Policy" creation process, the selection of "No Returns Accepted" is clearly identified by eBay as a Return Policy.

eBay should not be calling it a "Return Policy" when the seller creates the listing, but then change the text in the published listing to "No return policy specified".

That is what this change is about.  eBay made this change without notice, and their CS has told numerous sellers that it was NOT a glitch.  

Now after sellers have raised what must have been quite a ruckus, they are undoing their change and blaming it on a "glitch".

(Right.  A "glitch" - a software bug - which JUST HAPPENED to have a newly-worded text string available to display on the published listing!)

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Wed Apr 9 06:19:29 2014

Ric says: Mr Donahoe and his team need to wake up and realize that their strategy over the last 7 - 8 years has failed to produce the healthy, thriving selling environment that they claimed despite their buyer centric improvements.

Ric is correct, they have done just the opposite.  They poisoned a near perfect ecosystem and drove many buyers away.  Yes oh challenged management, all those sellers you drove away were likely buyers.

And Ina, I called eBay last night regarding the issue that you report about and the CSR was clueless.  He hadn't heard a word about this. I didn't tell him that this story had broken and I wish you could have heard him dance around it.  I then told him of the story and he went silent for about 15 seconds.  

I told him to go to ecommercebytes.com and read about this, because this is generally where I get my news of eBay changes and glitches, before I get the news from eBay.  (In fact, if your blog did not report many of these issues, they'd likely never be attended to.)

I highly doubt this ("Seller did not specify a returns policy" is a glitch.  My guess is it reads just like eBay want it to. The statement as it reads is a lie if a seller did state that he does not accept returns.

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

by: CNYC This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 9 07:59:02 2014

It seems that some sellers are not aware of the difference between a ''return policy'' and a ''guarantee''.

Whether on Ebay or any other store, physical or online, the merchant will have some sort of return policy; it could be 365 days like Zappos, 30 days like many other retailers, final sale/no returns (often done on any clearance even in high end stores) or simply no returns accepted as a general rule.  And, the return policy must be clearly stated on the persons receipt (if in person) or their online site/listing.

Regardless of all that, if you are wronged in some manner such as a broken product, the wrong product, an item that is significantly not as described, etc. then a chargeback, buyer protection, guarantee, etc. would be the option. Even you charge card will ask that you contact to merchant for resolve first. That is rescinding funds for cause, it is NOT an actual return policy, it is recourse for misrepresentation.

If you buy a green skateboard and its great but you decide you want to return it for a blue one because you dyed your hair blue that week then you go to the return policy - if it is ok you are good to return, if it was final sale you are not.
You wouldn't do a chargeback based on a change of heart in an effort to ''trump'' a merchants policies because it would most likely not work out in your favor and could be seen as fraud.


Hope that clears things up for some people that are confused.

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Wed Apr 9 13:41:51 2014

@shirley-u-geste-southwest et al,

You’ll get not argument from me about eBay being the most unscrupulous, indeed criminal, commercial entity on the planet.

But just what has eBay been caught doing? And what has been eBay’s response? eBay has done some slight rewording. Has that materially changed anything?

“The CA AG took the complaint very seriously and has been investigating the matter.”

Do let me know when the CA AG actually does something meaningful. I’ve been regularly complaining to all and sundry (including the CA AG) for years about eBay’s demonstrable, blatant, criminal, aiding and abetting of massive, endemic shill bidding fraud on ordinary “consumers” on eBay nominal-start auctions and do you know what those authorities have done? Absolutely nothing!

The reality is, “big business” has long ago bought and paid for your elected representatives and the responsible regulators too, apparently; regardless, those authorities apparently consider the economic activity created by eBay to be more important than eBay’s disingenuous treatment of the mere hoi polloi, and they likely will do nothing to disrupt that economic activity; so, if you are banking on the CA AG “intervening” in a commercial contractual matter between you and eBay, methinks that you are likely to be disappointed …

“Use of this [eBay] Web site constitutes acceptance of the eBay User Agreement, …”

You can lodge as many complaints as you like with whomever you like and, who knows, you may even be able to get some pressure put on eBay to be less unscrupulous than they would otherwise normally be but, the fact remains, eBay is entitled to change their UA whenever they like, as often as they like; and, if you are a professional seller you are not covered by the usual broad “consumer” laws that cover goods and services purchased by consumers for domestic use; so, if you think that at any time eBay is in breach of the current “commercial” contract that you have agreed to be bound by each time you log in, then you have recourse at law for breach of contract; but, the fact remains, for “professional” sellers, it is a matter of contract law only; ultimately, if you don’t like the contract, your only option is to not reenter into that contract …

Learn to work around the matter; learn how “use” eBay as eBay uses and abuses you if you can, otherwise “move on”, as many other have done …

eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking ... http://bit.ly/11F2eas

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

by: Mr. Me This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 9 14:43:17 2014

Since March ... what year?  or should I say "which decade"?.
It is common knowledge that sellers can be forced to take a return by buyer claiming "not as described" or in Amazons case an "A-Z claim", a little white-lie goes a long way here , or by issuing a chargeback through paypal. It is a one-sided deal, as sellers side of the story is ignored .....

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

This user has validated their user name. by: Puck

Wed Apr 9 17:39:35 2014

"The reality is, “big business” has long ago bought and paid for your elected representatives and the responsible regulators to..."

They compromised Crocodile Dundee years ago.

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

by: CNYC This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 9 21:05:00 2014

@ Philip Cohen
Quoted from your post:
"But just what has eBay been caught doing? And what has been eBay’s response? eBay has done some slight rewording. Has that materially changed anything?"

Yes, they materially changed the terms of sales contracts retroactively and without the consent of either of the involved parties. That is still illegal for everyone, eBay included. Materially? yes the terms were re-worded which is not permitted after the fact. Even the newly listed items with the new wording were deceptively agreed to. You select your terms on the drop down, agree to be responsible by clicking on submit and the terms are re-worded to something else.

It is a more serious matter then many of their other unscrupulous ploys in the past. This was actual fraud and should not be dismissed as a glitch.

Perminate Link for eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way   eBay Overrides Seller Return Policies: Fix Is on the Way

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Wed Apr 9 21:16:54 2014

@CNYC,

It's still a matter contract between commercial entities ...

eBay does these things because it can; and they are apparently confident that no one in authority will take them to task for anything they do to the hoi polloi ...

Regardless, if you get a satisfactory result from your complaints, good luck to you ...

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