Is eBay making progress on buyer fraud?

Last week a friend asked me for tips about selling her smartphone and pretty decent camera on eBay. She was rather surprised when I told her not to: “Too risky. You’ll be at risk of buyer fraud.”

High value items like phones and cameras are exactly the sort of things that sellers are at risk of losing out on when it comes to buyer fraud. And that’s particularly the case when it comes to occasional, amateur, private sellers who might not fully appreciate the specific eBay risks.

And my fears were subsequently reflected in a story in the Telegraph of last week. I’d say the seller here did everything possible to stay safe selling a fashion brand handbag but was still the victim of a try-it-on.

And it could have cost her several hundred quid unless she’d gone to the press. High-end handbags, like cameras and smartphones, are definitely in the high risk categories for an eBay seller rip-off.

Hers was a case of the old “switcheroo” and the buyer seemingly returned an inferior item. What with mandatory managed returns, it is a tricky case for eBay to deal with. But I suspect that if we had access to the buyer and seller records here, we’d see an exemplary seller record and an ambiguous buyer background. But predictably the first instance eBay response found in favour of the buyer.

And then rightly, when it came to light, eBay made good. But it shouldn’t need a national newspaper to intervene in order that an appeal be fairly addressed. Or indeed humanly addressed at all.

eBay has made some steps towards addressing buyer fraud. The ‘Report a Buyer’ link is now much more visible. And the Royal Mail exemption continues until the end of August. And we hope that behind the scenes there is good work going on to identify those repeat buyer fraud offenders.

It strikes Tamebay that it shouldn’t be too hard to seek out those repeat buyer fraudsters. Any buyer making multiple claims should be flashing red on the customer support dashboard and worthy of further investigation. But we have no evidence that CS agents have the discretion or incentive to deal with those dodgy buyers.

It seems that the problem with these all too common issues lies with eBay’s Customer Support. The seller, in this case, made an appeal to eBay and provided proper tracking details. But she found only deaf ears and lost her goods, paid for a refund and got back some old crap. And yet she complied by the rules, fulfilled all the obligations of an eBay seller, sent the proper goods and got screwed by eBay’s automated systems until the media got involved.

eBay has pledged to do better and we’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they have good intentions. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Have you had better, more trusting and nuanced experience from eBay in the past year when it comes to (attempted) buyer fraud? Is eBay making progress on this front?

We’d love to hear from you. Have you even the victim of buyer fraud on eBay?