PayPal transactions reversed without warning

I’ve had a bizarre problem with PayPal payments over the last week or so. Certain payments have been – apparently at random – reversed in my PayPal account and the money returned to the buyer, without any action from me or from the buyer. They’ve all been related to eBay purchases, and in every case, I’ve had the payment email from PayPal but no email about the reversal.

In some cases, there’s been a second PayPal payment, which has successfully completed and the item shows on eBay as purchased. Other times the item listings don’t show a corresponding purchase, My eBay and SMP don’t show the transaction, and the item remains available for purchase: it’s as though nothing ever happened.

The one glimmer of cheer is that the reversals seem to take place immediately, so checking a PayPal account via their site does show whether the transaction is successful or not.

I’m not the only person with the problem: a thread on the PowerSeller board has many sellers with the same issue, but sadly, no solution from eBay.

This is what PayPal support have said:

this transaction was reversed as a result of a failed Ebay transaction.

This customer had attempted to purchase this item via Ebay, however the Ebay transaction had failed. As a result of this transaction failure, Ebay had instructed PayPal to reverse this transaction. You are unable to view this transaction in your Ebay account because of the fact that the transaction failed.

If you wish to obtain additional information as to why the Ebay transaction failed, we recommend that you contact Ebay customer support for further details.

eBay Support say they are not aware of any problems with Checkout.

Fortunately, in most cases, my buyers have been sanguine about it. Most (the ones with the duplicate payments) aren’t aware of any problem. One, who had multiple failed payments, said he knew something odd was happening but would just keep trying til it worked, and has – more buyers like him please! One lady insisted that she had an email from PayPal saying she’d paid me, and she hadn’t cancelled, so she’d paid. Only after repeated pleas from me to look at her PayPal account did she see that, yes, the payment had been reversed. I think she thinks I did it, but at least we’ve resolved the matter.

If I ever get any sense out of Support, I’ll post it here: otherwise, anyone who relies solely on PayPal emails to manage their dispatches, needs to start checking their account.