How To Comply With eBay’s New Returns Policy

This is a guest post by Jonathon Butterworth. He is a freelance logistics writer with a keen interest in eCommerce. He is currently writing in conjunction with Parcel2Go.

A new policy which eBay claims has resulted in increased sales conversions, reducing operating costs, and improving the quality of customer feedback would, you might think, be welcomed by sellers using the site with open arms.

But the company’s new Managed Returns policy is, at the time of writing, causing a great deal of uncertainty among seasoned eBay merchants, due to a number of unanswered questions remaining from eBay’s own announcement.

Effective immediately for new sellers, the main sources of contention in the changes include that they must sign up to eBay’s returns programme, rather than instigate their own procedures. eBay itself says that the policy “is designed to give buyers a consistent way to initiate returns, no matter which business seller they buy from”.

At the same time as announcing that the policy would be immediately implemented for new sellers, eBay also gave notice that the conditions would apply to existing sellers from February 17.

Increased cost
Some sellers voiced concerns that, by being forced to follow eBay’s prescribed policy, they would also have to use eBay’s designated courier service for their returns. This could well be despite them having established long-standing relationships with other shipping companies, and therefore having to pay more for their second-time deliveries.

But the overriding concern of sellers over the policy is that it won’t require buyers to give any reason for returning goods, yet the seller will still be required to provide redress either in the form of a replacement product, or a full refund.

While many sellers operate such a ‘no quibble’ returns policy, however, many currently place a strict time limit on claims which can be made under its provisions.

One provision of the changed conditions which could work in favour of sellers is that the time limit for the instigation of a case under the eBay money back guarantee is set to be lowered from 45 to 30 days after the estimated or actual delivery date.

Who will the policy apply to?
In the early days following the announcement, this was one of the biggest sources of confusion. The official announcement didn’t indicate which sellers, or categories of products, would be obliged to use the new formal policy.

With no indication of whether the policy would be applied to sellers by the types of goods they sell, or how they conducted their eBay account, the uncertainty which surrounded the policy’s introduction in the United States – and which has been the subject of wide debate – still exists in the months leading to its application in other markets, including the UK.

eBay’s promise
While it has not clarified any of these points, it has provided a statement to Tamebay’s Chris Dawson, in which it promises that a full announcement will come with the company’s next official Seller Release, due in March, which also promises: “Sellers will receive a minimum notice period of 60 days before the change is introduced”.

Yet despite all the reservations over the policy, and the way in which it is being introduced, there are still worries that it may come into effect as early as mid-February.

All this leaves the key questions still unresolved, at the time of writing, which is almost exactly one month before the date when eBay is planning to roll out its new returns rules to all sellers of its UK website.