Should you offer returns on eBay auction listings?

ReturnseBay have announced that from the Autumn all sellers will need to specify a returns policy in their listings. Sellers will have to offer a minimum of 14 days as the period in which the buyer can cancel the transaction and get their money back as well as specify who pays the return carriage – the buyer or the seller.

Sellers are only just starting to realise however that the new returns requirements will apply not only to fixed price listings but also to auctions. There are also questions as to whether returns have to be offered for overseas sales

There has been a long running argument as to whether auctions fall under the distance selling regulations including various court cases over the years. Personally I’ve never worried about the semantics of whether an eBay “auction-style” listing is in the eyes of the law an “auction” or not an “auction”. If you have confidence in your products and services why would you offer returns for your fixed price listings but not for your auction style listings?

To put the matter to bed once and for all however, the latest EU Directive differentiates between public auctions and online marketplace auction-style listings. It specifically states “The use of online platforms for auction purposes which are at the disposal of consumers and traders should not be considered as a public auction within the meaning of this Directive.” In other words an eBay auction-style listing is NOT an auction and yes you do have to offer returns.

Business sellers will be required to offer returns on auctions from Autumn this year, the “No returns accepted” field will no longer be available unless you’re listing in exception categories (Custom-made products, Foodstuffs, Perishable goods, Real Estate, Tickets/ Travel, Business Industrial).

eBay leave international returns a little ambiguous saying “You should make any international returns information clear in your free text on returns”. However it’s worth noting that within the EU buyers have the same returns rights as within the UK, the latest EU Directive lays out your responsibilities.