eBay buyer complaint on BBC Radio 4’s Moneybox Live

By Dan Wilson January 9, 2014 - 12:47 am

money backWe’ve all seen this graphic all over eBay. It’s a scheme I like and it’s exactly the sort of thing that inspires buyer confidence. And we’re all in favour of that.

But a caller on Moneybox Live yesterday on Radio 4 showed how even a reasonably diligent buyer, trading with a business seller with a decent track record, can come a cropper with eBay seemingly washing their hands of the case. Check out the BBC audio at 1m 45 or so. (UK residents only.)

In short, a buyer has bought some speakers for a tidy sum that don’t work. He paid by PayPal, collected them himself and they turn out to be faulty. After communications with eBay customer support in Ireland it seems that there is no help they can offer the buyer and they have stopped responding to his emails.

What’s not clear is whether the seller has said he is willing to take the speakers back and issue a refund. And there may be other things we don’t know. And, of course, we don’t know who the seller is (except that it was a business seller with decent feedback). And there seems to be a quibble about the costs of returning the speakers too.

Now, personally I wouldn’t have spent such a sum on untested goods. But this buyer has and also collected the purchase in person which appears to be the rub. This eBay page though doesn’t say explicitly that collected goods are not covered (although it is implied). Also, on the more detailed page it doesn’t make that all that explicitly clear either.

Cases like this are rarely clear cut, and there may be stuff we don’t know, but even so I’m not sure eBay have done their money back guarantee justice in this case.

But most of all, the worst bit is, that eBay here is cast in a poor light as both a marketplace and an organisation. The buyer is now in a position where he is going to the Financial Ombudsman on the advice of the experts on the panel for some sort of recourse. And that seems fairly ludicrous.

What do you make of it?

  • phil
    4 years ago

    It happened to me, I arranged collection of goods by a carrier, they arrived short, I made a part claim which was dismissed as I had collected the goods and should have checked, how could I have checked I said to no avail, would be interested if we had a case too although it was £30

  • stuart
    4 years ago

    Isn’t this a case of ebay being unclear and indecisive?

    They need to get to grips with the rules and uphold them, why ebay isn’t a pay through paypal deliver only website I will never know?

    Send all the crap over to Gumtree and keep ebay a cleaner marketplace?

  • 4 years ago

    Implying that something is either covered or not is, frankly, not good enough. eBay exists purely, you could argue, to protect both sellers and buyers from this kind of “small print shenanigans”.

  • Gary
    4 years ago

    Buyer clearly at fault assuming speakers are secondhand. He should have insisted on a test before accepting the speakers and handing money over. Who pays ££££ without testing something first? Speakers may have been damaged during buyers own transport and handling arrangements. Once buyer has examined goods and paid there is not a lot that can be done. Also assuming no warranty arrangements agreed upon. Also specialised speakers can be a bit technical so are the buyers AV systems up to the demands of the speakers? Have they been installed correctly?

    Don’t actually see why ebay are involved with this. All they are doing is applying common sense in a nice and polite way which has upset the buyer.

    What if the buyer had purchased the speakers at an auction? Think about it.

    • stuart
      4 years ago

      He purchase from a business seller so it’s a whole other ball game, he won’t of need to test them and a warranty doesn’t matter as he would be covered as anyone is when purchasing goods.

  • admiralhardinge
    4 years ago

    Yes, the buyer wasn’t sensible, but at the same time ebay haven’t handled this well. The problem with ebay is that they don’t really “get” customer service, either for their buyers or sellers. They could have handled this better and sometimes they need to step up and take responsibility rather than hiding behind the verbiage, particularly when it is not sufficiently precise or clear.

    Another example of not stepping up is a single pre-Christmas buyer who clearly threatened me on an ebay message and tried to bully me to do what he wanted, but ebay wouldn’t remove the neg feedback because it didn’t fit the precise wording for feedback abuse. In other words it is OK to threaten a seller how you like as long as you don’t specifically say you will leave neg feedback. Ebay didn’t even have the guts to make the promised call back to tell me they wouldn’t support me.
    Ebay make some kind of effort which may have been OK when it was some kind of communal trading platform, but it is now a serious stock exchange quoted company and they need to act like that. As Stuart says, to not make something clear or precise for a company the size of Ebay is inexcusable and unprofessional. They must have the resources, so either they don’t use them properly or the people aren’t good enough.

    So many of the changes they make have bugs or process faults and again, with the right quality management and staff this should not happen. Changes come out that appear to be untested or not properly thought through.

    Amazon may well not be perfect, but they don’t tend to suffer so much from these kind of problems, and I suspect that is because they appear to do a better job with their ts and cs and processes.

    It is a trend in business that companies that don’t listen to their customers sufficiently and think they are OK, or try to boss the market, fall down in the end

  • Ian
    4 years ago

    There is a simple solution here.

    Sellers are not covered for collected goods under PayPal seller protection. All the buyer needs to do is claim is that he did not receive the goods. Paypal will ask the seller for online shipping confirmation. If the seller cannot provide it then the payment will be refunded to the buyer.

    Simples but perhaps not ethically correct.

    • Tony C
      4 years ago

      Interesting idea. In light of this contribution, I do wonder actually if the buyer in question had not mentioned that the goods were collected, would eBay have upheld his complaint, since the seller cannot provide tracking information?

    • Dean
      4 years ago

      Sellers aren’t covered for a lot of obvious things.
      I sent an untracked package to a buyer in France before Xmas and the buyer hasn’t received it.
      Upon investigation the buyer has admitted that the address recorded in PayPal (the confirmed address given to me for the address label) is 7 years(!) out of date.
      Now the buyer wants to know what I am going to do about it. Of course it‘s my fault that there address is 7 years out of date 😉
      I’m not going to repost the items purchased but I do know that if the buyer is savvy enough to open up a case, eBay will decide in the customers favour and will refund them. I’ve had this experience before and even when there is black and white evidence in eBay messages that the buyer has admitted that the address they supplied is wrong, there is nothing that you can do. You can kiss goodbye to it, because you don’t have proof that you posted it in the first place. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been trading on ebay for almost 15 years with no evidence / history of not posting things – you will lose.
      In short the protection for buyers and sellers needs reviewing again. I think eBay protection has improved for all parties but eBay are more frightened in p***ing off the buyer than the seller. Common sense must prevail and it sometimes doesn’t.
      (Sending tracked items may sound like an instant solution but is not a profitably viable option for some items when the extra cost won’t be absorbed by the customer and cannot be added free due to profit margin restraints).

  • Gary
    4 years ago

    What is buyer did not use Paypal to pay for goods. Buyers who collect normally pay on collection.

    It is very dangerous practice for sellers to accept Paypal if a buyer collects. If a Paypal payment is made and then buyer asks if he can collect the goods the seller should refund the Paypal payment and ask for payment on collection. Cash normally.

    • Tony C
      4 years ago

      Good advice, thanks for that. Never really thought of it like that before.

  • Tony C
    4 years ago

    eBay is full of holes, as most people in our position know. It comes as no surprise to me at all.

  • Gary
    4 years ago

    What all the pussy footing? ebay and BBC simply have to tell buyer there are no rights. Yes Mr Speaker buyer you have no rights. Why? Because you did not follow correct procedures. Many buyers make this mistake when the eyes start seeing ££££££ savings, the heart rate increases significantly, the brow and palms start going sweaty, and the race is on to beat off all the competition for the must have bargain buy of the year. eBay’s success is based on this human trait. ebay is quite happy to hand back a few £’s of sellers money as they know sellers won’t take it any further. When it comes to £££££££’s it is a different story, ebay know full well that there could be consequences, and only then ebay tell buyers how it is.

  • James
    4 years ago

    its another case of eBay overpromising and underdelivering. “we promise you will get the item you ordered or your money back” is merely them stretching the words “we comply with the distance selling regulations” – if you order a blue top, and they send you a green top, and your quite happy with that arrangement, you get neither the item you ordered or your money back, and thats fine. apart from eBay breaking another promise. in this case the distance selling regulations do not apply, as the goods were collected in person and therefore available for inspection prior to taking them away, and so eBay’s stretched promise goes back to being an inflated legal compliance issue. yes its all very good instilling faith, as long as you are worthy of the trust you are asking for. if all you’re going to do is comply with statuatory legal requirements, dont go around splashing them all over the website as grand promises, it will backfire.

  • David Brackin
    4 years ago

    What a shame that eBay come out of that so badly when they have been working so hard to get returns working better and it would be so simple to rectify. At the very least eBay should be working to narrow the issues even in cases where it cannot be resolved. This makes the next step (via a credit card dispute or via the courts) much more structured and straight forward.

    The trouble is that when eBay ADR fails, there’s nothing left to build upon. An inelegant failure.

    FWIW, I think the advice is poor. The buyer should be dealing directly with the merchant rather than the convoluted route via the credit card company which is really there for when the merchant fails.

  • Gary
    4 years ago

    I’ve now listened to the recording. It is worth listening to. Seller claims he could not test the £2200 speakers purchased in an ebay auction war (an auction purchase not BIN) so they were in fact not tested and sold as such. I’m guessing these speakers would normally be of the order of £8000 or so. Seller did offer to repair but the repair would take up to 10 weeks as it is a specialised item requiring the speakers potentially to be returned to the manufacturer. Cost of return shipping to seller would be £300 because of weight and value. ebay insist on a courier receipt in the event of a return being made and this was the reason that buyer did not simply deliver the speakers back himself and at this stage still has the speakers.

    He did not pay by Paypal but by a credit card through Paypal. So Paypal protection does not apply as any protection has to be through the credit card provider. The Tamebay story above states payment was by Paypal which is wrong.

    How can ebay or Paypal be responsible for or liable for this?

  • JD
    4 years ago

    A few of observations:

    As the seller was unable to demonstrate the speakers it would seem that they were not his usual stock in trade. Regardless of the overall seller feedback would you buy an expensive item from an inexperienced seller (of any item in question)?

    Even if the Distance Selling Regulations do not apply then The Sale of Goods Act 1979 certainly does. Unless the goods were fully described as ‘spares or repair’ ‘not working’ ‘untested’ or similar then they would appear in this case not to have been fit for purpose.

    Whether or not the buyer would get a refund or repairs would depend upon how long he had been in possession. If a period of time had passed he would be deemed to have accepted the goods and thus only entitled to a repair.

    Either way, refund or repair, he would be responsible for taking the goods back (and if repaired collecting them again).

    In this case I am not at all sure that eBay have any responsibility in the matter. Cases such as this should be more prominently excluded from the ‘Tony’ policy.

    In the event of an uncooperative seller then Trading Standards / Small Claims Court may be the recourse action.

    I agree with Stuart that it might be in eBay’s better interests to push collection items to Gumtree (but not necessarily just Crap!).

  • Gary
    4 years ago

    Slightly off topic but how can the seller be selling an alcohol still? Sounds dodgy

    • 4 years ago

      Nothing dodgy about selling stills, same as beer making or home-made wine kits. As long as whatever you brew is not sold it’s all totally above board and permissable.

    • 4 years ago

      My late father was a Doctor of Analytical Chemistry. He had a Still in his Laboratory which he used in regard to Chemicals. I am not an expert on Stills but I would guess that there is not a lot of difference between a Still for Alcohol and one for Chemicals.

      I seem to remember that his Still had to be periodically inspected to ensure that it was not being used in regard to alcohol. But having watched him a time or two distilling chemicals I very much doubt if it would be possible to produce alcohol from it that was not lethal to anybody crazy enough to want to drink it.

      So Stills may be used for Alcohol but there could also be other uses.

    • Gary
      4 years ago

      If you operate an alcohol still in the UK you require a licence from HMRC even if for home use only. And duties have to be paid on all alcohol produced using a still even if for home consumption. Rules are different for fermented alcoholic drink. So yes go ahead and buy it but use it unlicensed in the UK and you break UK law.

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