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eBay is losing the perception war by backing dubious buyers in disputes

By Dan Wilson December 9, 2013 - 11:48 pm

It’s an impossible marketplace to police and arbitrate, not least because of its size. But an article in the weekend’s Observer about eBay UK that focussed on how disputes between buyers and sellers, especially casual sellers, seem to be weighted in favour of buyers will resonate with many.

The article features a handful of cases where seemingly obvious cases of buyer fraud, or buyers “having a go”, have resulted in sellers picking up the tab. And to regular eBay traders there will be nothing fanciful or new about the claims. Indeed, the buyer antics will seem all too familiar

In eBay’s defence, the welcome cull of over 50k naughty buyers was not mentioned in the article and should have been. But this is the latest in a series of pieces we’ve seen over recent months that suggest that eBay is not just failing to serve sellers adequately but also losing the media war.

If perception is reality, this type of piece is very damaging. Of course, we know that eBay isn’t terribly dedicated to casual sellers or devoted to its SME concerns so much these days. It’s new High Street friend and discounting retailers are the new eBay BFFs.

But as the comments on the Observer piece show, there is a problem that needs addressing. Many sellers, especially smaller sellers, who don’t have the expertise or experience to challenge a claim, are fearful that despite their best efforts, they will end up out of pocket.

The eBay defence will be: this is a handful of cases in millions and we’re even-handed. But I just don’t see how that can wash when I hear so many cases found against even the most diligent of professional sellers. And worse than that: even the top brass of SME sellers have no reasonable escalation or appeal process where they can make their case properly to a sentient human being who wants to listen.

eBay should be backing up good sellers, however big or small, when they are acting honestly and doing the right thing and have paperwork to prove their best efforts. Simple as.

  • 4 years ago

    Had this exact issue, as a casual seller and avid buyer, I listed and ‘sold’ a pair of nice headphones for about $150. The buyer had over 2k positive feedback, and I was about to leave on a trip for 2 weeks so went straight to the post office to ship the headphones right away.

    It was my fault that I didn’t wait for payment, but buyer never paid. What ridiculously followed was because I filed a complaint, the transaction was never official, so I couldn’t even give negative feedback, Never got money from the buyer, and could in no way reflect their nonpayment. They never even responded to a single email.

    • The Buyer
      4 years ago

      Sucker!

    • JohnC
      4 years ago

      You can’t leave negative feedback for a buyer under any circumstances!

  • 4 years ago

    Hmm. Not sure that that your case is what I’m talking about to be honest.

    You had a non payer but shipped the goods. Not sure what the deal was with the dispute, but as a seller you would not have been able to leave a negative feedback anyway. Sellers can’t.

    Future advice: at least wait for payment before sending the goods.

  • X4MGS153
    4 years ago

    If you took the time to read the Powerseller Boards on eBay you would see that this situation is now a daily issue that sellers have to deal with – despite eBay’s statement this these are the exception – They Really Are The Norm!!

    Try living up to the name – TAME eBay!!

  • Andy
    4 years ago

    I can only see the media coverage of this getting worse. That’s because eBay are useless at both managing the media and dealing fairly with sellers.

    So when Mary at The Sun (or one of her friends) sells their unwanted iPod in the free listing window after Christmas that happens every year and then has a case opened against them for non-receipt which eBay immediately finds in favour of the buyer I think there will be a few more stories doing the rounds.

    And rightly so. eBay deserve all the bad press they get.

    • Jason Cooke
      4 years ago

      In the US eBay guard the media exceptionally well. Any negativity aimed at eBay gets swiftly removed. They may not have as much clout in the UK though.

  • 4 years ago

    eBay does not need sellers it needs buyers so its always going to protect the buyers experience. Without buyers it has nothing yet there are millions of sellers , It’s a very simple and obvious situation.

    P.s I cannot believe people start to waffle about individual cases like that’s going to help anyone’s understanding of the situation.

  • northumbrian
    4 years ago

    when you contact customer support with blatant buyer fraud or mis behaviour you get a twee we will pass this on to trust and safety dept response and nothing happens ,you may as well stick a message in a bottle and float it out to sea

  • Gary
    4 years ago

    Michelin restaurant inspectors are anonymous. ebay forget that journalists are too. Are consistent standards too much to ask?

  • 4 years ago

    On many occasions I have had the mis-fortune of ebay dispute facility and they ALWAYS take the buyers favour – why should we bother! A recent prime example was that a buyer wanted to return goods 28 days after they received the goods, outside the 14 day return period and when the goods were returned, only half the goods were sent back. I told the buyer I could only refund what was returned so they opened up a dispute case saying they returned everything in full and got their money back. Where is the justice for the honest sellers. There is no point of a 14 day return period if the customer can still make claims. I have no faith in Ebay dispute facility as they will always favour the buyer at the expense of the seller. It seems very strange I never get these issue’s with Amazon – ebay is becoming known for a good scam site to get something for nothing! (rant over) :-)

  • Jane
    4 years ago

    Mr Harrison (above) is right. Ebay have achieved a remarkable thing over the past 10 years and no one gives them credit for it. When I used to tell people back then that I sold on eBay, I would immediately be bombarded with tales of scams and rip-off merchants. Ebay had a seriously bad name and many people would not dare to buy anything for fear of losing their money.

    And you know what? I really can’t remember the last time I heard anyone say ‘You can’t trust eBay’ or ‘I bought something on eBay, never got it and lost all my money’.

    To achieve this turnaround, eBay have obviously had to side with buyers more of the time in disputes in order to protect them from unscrupulous sellers. And they must continue this. As Mr Harrison points out, eBay needs buyers. If the buyers leave because they fear losing their money, there will be no eBay, whilst there will always be plenty of sellers.

    Obviously, all the comments on this board are written by nice friendly sellers just trying to earn an honest living and some are suffering at the hands of fraudulent buyers. But I believe eBay is right about this being a minority of cases. (Though way more than a handful!) Most of us are buyers too and there can’t be many who can’t cite a bad buying experience, so that means there are still plenty of bad sellers out there. The difference is that we still buy with confidence because we know that when things go wrong, we are protected and won’t lose our money.

    The recent cull of fraudulent buyers shows eBay are aware this is a serious problem, and I am sure they will continue to do this. There is no solution that will satisfy everyone so eBay’s policy seems to be concentrating on the overall image of eBay as a safe place to buy. What they need to do now is to put a far better framework in place for buyers AND sellers to sort out disputes in a fair, open and even-handed way.

    • mw
      4 years ago

      You assume the buyer and seller are 2 different entities. Often they are the same person. One bad experience directly affects the other.

    • Jane
      4 years ago

      No I don’t! I said ‘Most of us (i.e. sellers who post on this board) are buyers too…’

      I’ve had my share of fraudulent buyers but I haven’t lost a case yet. I see them in the same way I see hackers, phishing and anyone else who tries to scam me – you have to be aware and do everything you can to prevent it happening to you in the first place. Never mind ‘Buyer beware!’ – it needs to be ‘Seller beware!’ too!

      Example: something over a year ago my parcels started going missing and this was around the time eBay started refunding every buyer who claimed non-receipt. There were even web sites springing up telling people exactly how to get ‘something for free’ on eBay. (These sites are still there!) The situation got so bad that one week, 40% of my parcels (sent in the UK) went missing, followed by claims from buyers. So, now I send all my parcels by recorded delivery and guess what? Not one missing parcel since.

      I can’t prevent all the scams but I can certainly protect myself. As for the OP, does he really expect eBay protection when he sent out something before the buyer paid? Come on folks – eBay is still the best place to sell online for a lot of people – far far better than anywhere else. I do agree that the dispute process is badly flawed, but sellers also need to protect their own interests.

    • mw
      4 years ago

      Fair enough, however I don’t buy from ebay anymore as a direct result of their poor policy application and customer service when I raise a complaint about “losses” which are clearly not. Their loss as much as mine.
      The Observer article seems to be directed at the casual seller of unwanted Xmas gifts. These are more likely to buy more than they sell. A poor selling experience from ebay will affect their next buying choice and it will be ebay’s fault in their eyes if it goes wrong.

  • Rich
    4 years ago

    My perception is that there is a determined 1 or 2 per cent that take sellers for a ride and ebay can’t or won’t do anything meaningful about it.
    It isn’t human error either, that story doesn’t wash because I pressed issues on numerous occasions.
    As I reported on other threads I have had overwhelming evidence that would probably stand up in a court of law, including online tracking, and ebay have taken no notice.
    And you can’t really challenge or hold your ground or you end up with negatives, bad ratings, and at worst a suspended selling account if you don’t voluntarily refund.
    I take the point that historically at least the sellers were the worst offenders, and sure it is a minority of dishonest buyers at work on a small number of transactions.
    I have also had issues with mis deliveries where the buyer hasn’t even contacted me or raised a dispute to claim a rightful refund, so I understand that ebay want to promote buyer rights. Nobody wants buyers to slink off never to buy again.
    All the buyer fraud seems to have kicked off even more since ebay launched the buyer protection banners with that ill worded message.
    People are right to highlight seller non performance and fraud, but curing buyer abuse is not contingent on first solving seller abuse and should be given priority now.
    It is extremely demoralising for honest sellers.

  • James
    4 years ago

    I’ll never trust eBay as a seller again, we shipped a customer a full wardrobe set, totalling a quarter of a ton in weight, spread over several parcels, which had to be shipped via a specialist 2-man courier service.

    The customer then claimed he returned this using a single royal mail (second class) tracking number.

    we pointed out in the case he opened that this was impossible, provided images of the envelope we received bearing this tracking number, containing a magic tree air freshener and blatantly not a wardrobe.

    eBay refunded the customer anyway and point blank refuse to give us our money back. nobody with an ounce of sanity would do that with their own money, but its not eBays money, so they’re happy to throw it at anyone who asks, whether they’re fraudsters or not. and even when presented with irrefutable evidence of the crime they have commited, eBay’s response is “tough, go to the police”.

    eBays current policies are, without a shadow of a doubt, criminal. and they will continue to enforce these illegal policies (although won’t actually put them in print) until there’s an exodus of sellers, or one of their CO’s are put behind bars (which is extremely doubtful).

    • Gerry007
      4 years ago

      .
      A Wardrobe in a 2nd class envelope…..How ridiculous!!.

      Mass seller exodus:

      You know, we are hearing from more sellers are indeed giving up on selling on ebay.

      We got an ID blocked from selling in Autumn, and do you know, we now do not miss it.
      Our own web sales have picked up nicely, so the lost turnover is all but covered.
      Ebay CS are not helpful in assisting sellers and this will not change.

      We had some specialist items on ebay, and although some other seller have attempted to replace our items, funny enough they do not appears to be selling anywhere near the volumes we sold.

      I can see no reason to do all the work ie; process, pack & send when so many are INR claims.
      These [INR claims] have always been present, but they seem to have increased several fold since ebay virtually forced buyers to open claims in the resolution centre early this years.
      Our claims for INR just multiplied on non recorded despatches.

      Unfortunately Royal Mail do not help in this situation [like postmen not getting signatures for recorded delivery items], which is not helped by lack of any reasonable & minimum form of tracking by RM, even though the cost is ow nearly as high as tracked post.

      Feedback:

      Get just 1 – feedback that states NON delivery & that seems to be a trigger for others to claim the same.

      Also, given [in our case] over 40% of buyers do not leave any feedback, the DSR system & basic feedback is flawed & based on only 60% [+/-] of transactions, so is not exactly representative of overall performance..

    • 4 years ago

      Also, given [in our case] over 40% of buyers do not leave any feedback“…

      Ever tried leaving feedback on eBay Mobile Apps? With 40% of sales on mobile it’s not really surprising that 40% of buyers don’t bother leaving feedback….

    • Gerry007
      4 years ago

      .
      Chris,
      Interesting, perhaps Tamebay should do a poll on % of feedback received by commentator on here.

    • 4 years ago

      Would also be interesting to know how many sellers with low feedback leave feedback first or only reciprocate with feedback when the buyer leaves feedback first….

    • Gerry007
      4 years ago

      .
      At all times our feedback was & is set to automatically leave feedback when the buyer leave us feedback.

      We used to leave feedback on payment, but over time found once feedback was left, we had no way of properly commenting if things then went wrong [excluding follow up comments].

    • Gerry007
      4 years ago

      .
      Chris,

      Looking at the poll so far, looks as if +/- 60% is the norm, although 29% appear to be get +60%, but this may also depend on the categories listed in, as some get better feedback results than others

      If this poll is across the ebay board, rather proves how feedback/DSR is outdated as a performance tool for everyone including ebay.

    • 4 years ago

      It certainly suggests a lot of buyers don’t leave feedback whichever way you cut it! That being the case how useful is feedback?

    • Gary
      4 years ago

      Without independent verification this could be a story made up by an Amazon mole. Ebay surely are not so dumb that they would risk such a story appearing on the front page of the Sun? This is where I would go with this if genuine.

    • james
      4 years ago

      well gary, without independent verification, you could well be a eBay employee. but how about we just assume we’re not all undercover agents eh? it happened. you want to come round and smell the magic tree and lick the envelope to be sure? i still have it here, you’re welcome to come visit and independently verify it all you want. eBay dont seem to give a damn about articles appearing anywhere, they stole our money and they’re keeping it.

    • northumbrian
      4 years ago

      too right ,
      a wardrobe claimed to have been returned in a 2nd class envelope is entirely plausible on ebay, its even more believable that ebay did not give any support,

    • Gary
      4 years ago

      Without independent verification the wardrobe story lacks credibility. Wardrobes on ebay are sold “pick up” only. No one normally ships wardrobes. Royal Mail have a 20kg weight limit. Why not point this out to ebay as the buyer sent the air freshener by Royal Mail recorded? ebay can very easily check if the barcode is a Royal Mail one or not. And then you have the small claims court so threaten litigation. You have the evidence and the initial costs payable by the claimant are added to the claim when you win. . .

    • Gerry007
      4 years ago

      .
      Gary, I am sure James knows this & indeed the games people play when taken to Court [Not to mention the time it takes]. Who do you sue? The buyer probably as the evidence comes from him!. Where does he live in comparison to where Jame’s business is?
      The buyer puts in a defence [no matter how Implausible] & the case is then automatically transferred to their nearest Country court, even if it’s a 100 miles away, the cost of Jame’s travel/legal fees etc is untenable.

      Sue Ebay and the same applies, but they will set a legal team on you, that will not only drag the case out to years, then eat him alive.
      Also I am sure buried in their [ebays] T&Cs will be a bright little disclaimer, which will cover it.

      Although ebay might settle, due to bad publicity…they most certainly will get.

    • Gerry007
      4 years ago

      Gary,

      Re; ‘Wardrobes on ebay are sold “pick up” only’.

      Actually this is far from true.
      The link below covers the 100 listings as best match and only 4 are collection only….i

      http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_sacat=0&_from=R40&LH_BIN=1&_sop=12&_nkw=wardrobe&_ipg=100&rt=nc

    • Gary
      4 years ago

      Hmmm. The ebay app in which I did a search tells a different story. Interesting. Are the app default search settings different?

    • northumbrian
      4 years ago

      every full time seller on ebay though possibly not as extreme as the wardrobe incident
      will have similar stories to tell the
      bizarre and outrageous
      is not unusual

    • James
      4 years ago

      as I said Gary, if you feel the need to verify, come and verify.

      yes I’m well aware of this, I’ve pressed every appeal button, sent countless emails, spent hours on the phone, sent pictures of the envelope and the air freshener it contained, highlighted royal mails weight and size limits vs the physical dimensions of the items in question, they really do not give a damn.

      I can assure you wardrobes are sold on ebay with postage, I work for a company that sells and posts wardrobes every single day, all across the UK, you can even opt to pay extra for express shipping, we’re not hard to find, even on the app.

    • Gary
      4 years ago

      As a company I simply do not understand why your company do not get go to court to recover the loss? If the defendant submits a defence the claim does not automatically go to the crown court as suggested above. It stays in the small claims court and may go to arbitration if both parties agree. Solicitors are not required. Or is ebay too valuable a sales channel for the company to take any action? BIG mistake if it is.

      PS I have been through the process and won. This was about 15 years ago however before ebay.

    • Gerry007
      4 years ago

      .
      James:

      Careful how you say this: ‘sells and POSTS’

  • simon
    4 years ago

    Nice to know they culled some buyers……..
    Must be the ones I’ve had recently with zero feedback now saying item not received….hmmm
    Ebay makes so much money you would guess they would pay the bill a few more times especially when they allow zero rated people to buy and abuse the system, or when an envelope contains a complete set of bedroom furniture.
    My gripe is it always difficult to contact them. Had a problem with a buyer. He had contacted ebay so they were looking into it, but when I wanted to pass a message on to ebay about the scam I thought he was trying to pull (along with some evidence) all the links to contact them ended up going in circles so i couldn’t.
    I think most sellers do accept a few items do go missing in the post (by my calculations lest that 1%) but some buyers seem to have items going missing every week and ebay allows this to go on month after month. ebay should be more proactive and my feeling is they will be looking at buyers ratings for INR (looking at cases opened) and this will then trigger the buyer being banned if it seems high.

    I would also like to see what exactly happen for example when a user for no apparent reason is abusive, INR often (you get this sometime in feedback left for others) etc. If you report it you get the standard ” we have done something but can’t tell you” but to most buyers this means they have done nothing. Transparency would help.

  • northumbrian
    4 years ago

    its quite simple really
    ebay are frightend to open pandoras box

  • simon
    4 years ago

    you quoted “In eBay’s defence, the welcome cull of over 50k naughty buyers was not mentioned in the article and should have been. ”

    Don’t you mean “over 50k naughty SELLERS”
    I can see nowhere where buyers were banned for dodgy transactions.

    • Gary
      4 years ago

      “They (ebay) say that they’ve protected the seller performance ratings of over 60,000 sellers and 54,000 buyer accounts that were in breach of eBay policy have been suspended”. I can confirm ebay sent out a message with these figures. As to the number of buyers being banned for dodgy transactions who knows? The breach of ebay policy could be for something unrelated to dishonest activity..

    • Gerry007
      4 years ago

      .
      Gary;

      It says above ‘the case is then automatically transferred to their nearest Country court’, no mention of ‘Crown Court’, which actually deal with serious criminal cases

  • 4 years ago

    I wish more of our ebay customers left at least some feedback. Not hard!

    • Gerry007
      4 years ago

      .
      Careful what you wish for….

      We had a buyer recently who ‘apparently’ did not receive the item sent…

      Instead of contacting & advising us, she left us a NEG feedback stating INR.

      We eventually contacted the buyer by phone to be told
      ‘Well we don’t know how to contact you & saw the feedback button & used it’.

      Took us a month & several emails + replacements to eventually get it removed.
      Ebay CS just did not want to know!!.

  • Steve
    4 years ago

    I think ebay should be ‘proactive’ on this and ‘reach out’ to sellers by taking responsibility for shipping. Let us pay for shipping to ebay; once we have handed it to the Post Office and got a receipt, its should be ebays problem. Catalogue shipping works this way and has for years, so why not ebay? after all, they charge on postage, and get a discount from RM for every online postage purchase. About time they did something to earn it.

    • Gerry007
      4 years ago

      .
      Eh, this is ebay we are talking about, they have got you by the short & curly’s, so why should they give you anything back….!!

  • james
    4 years ago

    gerry007- lol, okay – sells and hires professional 2-man large item couriers to facilitate the transportation of….

    its common sense that we dont use the postal mail service, but under the circumstances you’re absolutely right. the term may be correct in its usage, but its probably best to be clear when common sense is so rare.

    gary – especially at this time of year, there are other things to take care of before litigating. while the business does sell on other platforms and websites, my position is eBay manager, so removing our eBay store would be a bit of career suicide for me. I would much rather not be robbed in the first place, than be robbed, told it was for my own protection, then have to sue to get the money back from those claiming to protect me.

    it really is an open and shut case, in fact one which shouldnt have been opened in the first place. I dont know why you seem to be more shocked at us for not wanting to go through the courts than shocked at eBay for neccesitating it in the first place. although nobody else seems to be shocked by this typical eBay behaviour either.

    (the reply buttons seem to have disappeared from that previous thread)

  • northumbrian
    4 years ago

    going to court is always the very last option ,for any sensible well run business,

  • Rich Vernadeau
    4 years ago

    Ebay’s overall reputation with the general public is in serious decline. A company cannot engage in egregious actions towards its own sellers- including the purges of thousands of them in recent months- without experiencing a major negative publicity fallout.

  • 4 years ago

    We recently had a buyer claim non delivery and demand a refund, we said we would refund when a dispute was open so that Ebay were aware of the claim in case there was a pattern from this buyer of items not being received.
    Funnily enough they left negative feedback but no claim was made.
    I think this speaks volumes.
    We have asked Ebay if they could remove this as we are suspicious of the buyers intentions but we are probably whistling in the wind.

  • Dave
    3 years ago

    How easy would it be for eBay to simply add an “Item Not Received” filter just as they have for the “Item Not Paid For” filter that allows sellers to select their own levels of risk!!

    I mean, every time a buyer opens an “INR” dispute it registers with eBay so the simple fact of the matter is that eBay have the information yet choose to do nothing with it. Why? Because eBay aren’t the ones loosing any money….

    • Rich
      3 years ago

      Good idea Dave, best of I have heard recently. Ebay would argue that it would prevent timid buyers from making justified claims through fear of being stigmatised, perhaps it is a justified argument, but I favour your suggestion.
      Likewise i woiuld prefer to choose if I sell to buyers with low feedback.
      Incidentally,2 days ago I had 2 INR claims from a buyer. Luckily I had tracking info and guess the buyer was unaware of this. The parcel was delivered on the 9th.
      As no explanation has been forthcoming I will report buyer to ebay but wonder if anything will come of it.

    • Gerry007
      3 years ago

      .
      We always mark any buyers feedback with INR. .[message] . . . INR.

      Many buyers do not know what INR means, so if a another INR claim is made this stands out in feedback so other sellers can see it…

      Ebay are unlikely to do much, now are they!!

    • northumbrian
      3 years ago

      who checks feedback before a sale ? purchase on ebay the buyer then has the sword of Damocles in their grasp, leaving a comment hoping to alter buyer behaviour or help other sellers is futile

    • Gerry007
      3 years ago

      .
      I said:

      ‘SO IF ANOTHER’ INR claim is made this stands out in feedback so other sellers can see it…

      Of course NO SELLER checks a buyers feedback during a sale progress, just if things go wrong…..

    • northumbrian
      3 years ago

      its still futile

    • Gerry007
      3 years ago

      northumbrian,

      Maybe true, but it’s more than ebay or many others do….

    • northumbrian
      3 years ago

      were trying to make a living not change the world
      if there is no profit in it we dont do it

  • Merlo
    3 years ago

    Ebay need to add a facility to extend the case time before it is eligable for escalting. The current time is too short to resolve a problem if a swop or parts are needed. We have asked customers to close the case while we resolve it but they never do. We now just avoid throwing good money after bad and do not attempt to swop goods or provide parts. The customer gets a far worse service because of this. Perhaps buyers above a certail % feedback could get a longer period or the ablity to extend the period if required.

    • Alex
      3 years ago

      I agree that the time period for INR cases before they can be escalated is far to short. Especially when dealing internationally. The current system can also be abused by buyers should they wish to be malicious or perhaps get something for nothing.

      My approach is simple: Whilst such cases are very rare, if a buyer does start a case without contacting me first I add him to my blocked buyer list and then immediately try to contact him by phone to discuss the problem (I usually wait a few hours after time of case being opened to allow buyer to cool down a bit!). Hopefully speaking with the buyer will calm things and he will then give enough time to enable the issue to be resolved. If however I am unable to speak with him, or if he is not giving the time required, then I will generally refund in full before the case is escalated. I always try to prevent escalation as this usually leads to an immediate forced refund and a strike against the seller.

      I really don’t like to suggest this as the best way to resolve INR or damaged items cases as it is unfair to the seller but its better than having a case escalated and still having to refund.

      Whilst it is unfair that sellers can be put in this position, thankfully unreasonable or fraudulent buyers are very rare. I view the odd occasion that this happens as a ‘1in x’ and accept it as an occasional and unfortunate overhead. eBay is basically a numbers game – if you sell enough items you will get the odd problem. Whilst it’s easy to remember the idiots, you also have to remember the 1000’s of really nice buyers. Also bear in mind that eBay promotes your products to millions of people. IMO, overall, the benefits of eBay far outweigh the cost of an occasional refund.

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