Should you offer returns on eBay auction listings?

By Chris Dawson April 18, 2013 - 10:53 am

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.

  • davelovesebay
    4 years ago

    Sellers are being pushed to give free shipping and now 14 days refunds on auctions. Although most business sellers would refund within 60 days to avoid bad feedback. Ebay remains the on market place we can auction an item reselling for 18 pound for 2, and find the only person. To complain about quality or similar to be the eBay 2 quidder. Ebay won’t drive traffic to smaller independent sellers any more and chooses drive the majority of it traffic to large retailers.

    With the type of platform ebay is and the type of customer, service and pricing it demands, I think a lot of smaller independent retailers that have been high value quality proposition are focusing there efforts and money elsewhere and seeing good results.

    Whilst still on ebay their main focus is not in ebay and expansion of lines to suit ebay.

    With this is mind its no wonder ebay missed its earnings forcast and shares are down some 7%.

    Although many have also missed for casts. Maybe it’s time ebay focused again on the principles that saw massive growth of the site in the first place.

    • davelovesebay
      4 years ago

      Its like this.

      Ebay doesnt really really drive traffic to normal average joe sellers auctions.

      But Average joe is hinted towards offering free delivery and now 14 days returns (as before returns on ebay are until you can open a case so 60 days, its not like a seller would ever win)

      So offering an item for auction with free delivery and 14 days quoted but in real terms 60 days returns is the name of the game.

      On this free delivery you need to do it ‘fast and free’ so 24 hr courier and dispatch same or at least next day.

      Now i class myself as average joe seller, and i dont do anything of these things on other platforms, nor do i have to even auction items to drive traffic to buy it nows. Nor to i get Mr 2 quid inc free delivery ebay spender with his/her massive list of demands.

      Guess the last place i think of when chosing new stocks to sell.

      Heres a hint it begins with e and ends in bay.

  • admiralhardinge
    4 years ago

    It really isn’t anything very new. The law has stated for a long time sellers are obliged to accept returns within the cooling off period for Distance Selling. All ebay are doing it is codifying it into their User Agreement. Shame on sellers who say “no returns”. They are simply breaking the law and ebay should have removed any such sale years ago.

    • mw
      4 years ago

      Taken from the Distance Selling Regs 2000.
      Point 5F is of note if ebay auction items are still classed as auction

      Excepted contracts
      5.—(1) The following are excepted contracts, namely any contract—

      (a)for the sale or other disposition of an interest in land except for a rental agreement; .
      (b)for the construction of a building where the contract also provides for a sale or other disposition of an interest in land on which the building is constructed, except for a rental agreement; .
      (c)relating to financial services, a non-exhaustive list of which is contained in Schedule 2; .
      (d)concluded by means of an automated vending machine or automated commercial premises; .
      (e)concluded with a telecommunications operator through the use of a public pay-phone; .
      (f)concluded at an auction

  • Gary
    4 years ago

    “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.”

    The directive does not say that an ebay “auction style” listing is NOT an auction. It does say that it is not a “public auction”

    Remember many “public auction” sales offer internet bidding. How is bidding on ebay any different from internet bidding for items in a “public auction”?

    Excepted contracts are sales concluded at an auction. It does not say whether this is public or private and on this basis ebay should not be obliging sellers to offer returns for auctions.

    What ebay should do is make it very clear that buyers and bidders on their auctions waive their rights of return.

    This may make BIN sales more attractive.

    • 4 years ago

      Actually if you read the document the “Exceptions from the right of withdrawal are (k) contracts concluded at a public auction;” i.e. definitely not an eBay auction.

      Bidding on ebay is different from internet bidding for items in a “public auction” because you don’t generally have the option to turn up and inspect the goods in advance…

      (…can you imagine the outcry from eBay sellers if they had a steady stream of buyers turning up at their warehouse (or homes!!) asking to inspect goods before bidding :D)

    • 4 years ago

      Considering business sellers are required to make their addresses publicly visible is there really anything stopping this from happening? I doubt if the DSR didn’t exist that people would be showing up either.

    • 4 years ago

      Quite a lot of business sellers have a different registered address and business address especially with a Ltd Co’ so in practice I don’t think this will pose too much of a problem as its in no way guaranteed to be the address at which the stock is held.

    • 4 years ago

      Registered Addresses are often the address of the Companies External Accountants. In the good old days it was not unusual to see outside the doors of an Accountants on the wall a solid block of Brass Plates for the Companies with their Registered addresses there.

      Large Groups often have all their Registered Addresses, including subsidiaries at the same place. Again it is usually where the Groups Accountants or Legal Departments(Company Secretary) are.

      Often the Registered Address has little other contact with the Trading side of the Group. It is not a Shop, Warehouse or Distribution Centre just an Office and if it is the Companies Accountants(A Firm of Chartered Accountants) it is unlikely that there will be anybody directly employed by the Company employed there.

  • jo
    4 years ago

    I thought the DSR said the return period is 7 working days? ie cooling off period. Not 14 days. Why is ebay enforcing that?

    • 4 years ago

      This has been the case for years. I assume it is about providing trust in the marketplace by doing more than what is required by law. It is easy to do that when it isn’t you on the hook for the return.

    • Lee Pearce
      4 years ago

      I think the 14 day timeframe is going through the EU parliment at the moment and will become law in the near future and so the marketplaces are getting ahead of the game.

      Oh, and its their train set!!


  • JohnC
    4 years ago

    I don’t understand why this is confusing. Ebay auction-style listings are clearly not “auctions” within the meaning of the regulations.

    The key difference is not merely the lack of an ability to inspect pre-sale, it is the absence of an auctioneer.

    In an internet auction, the auctioneer is conducting the sale, and they have had sight of the goods and vouch for the accuracy of the description. This does not happen on ebay.

    • 4 years ago

      There is of course one area where invariably the Seller asks any prospective Buyer to not only inspect the goods on sale but to give them a test drive and that of course is Motors.

      Does that mean that there could be a different status if not only the seller asks for potential buyers to inspect and test drive but that the buyer does take advantage of the request and arranges to inspect and test drive and actually does?

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