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What happens when markeplaces demand more than minimum legal obligations?

By Chris Dawson April 19, 2018 - 9:00 am

Here at Tamebay HQ we have come across a couple of cases recently where eBay required sellers to go beyond and above the basic requirements of the law. This raises the question as to what standards sellers should be held to – their minimum legal obligations or those of the marketplace.

To save you reading any further, the answer is simple and unequivocal: If you want to sell on a marketplace then, as a business seller, you have to offer the minimum legal obligations required by law but if the marketplace requires you to offer a higher level of service then you must do so if you wish to trade on their platform. Basically it’s their marketplace and their rules.

In the first instance that came across my desk, a seller had shipped an item and the buyer had opted to pay extra for expedited shipping. The law currently said that when the item was returned the seller doesn’t have to refund the additional shipping charged as this is an extra service the buyer chose. However on eBay the seller was required to refund the entire original transaction including the expedited shipping fee.

The second case for a listing on eBay US also centres around returns where the buyer simply changes their mind but claims the item was faulty or SNAD. Here the difference is who pays for the return postage and it would appear that eBay in the US are moving towards a more UK like model where buyers are able to return items and receive a full refund and their return carriage costs but some claim SNAD in order to get free carriage. Remember that this is particularly relevant in the US as they recently announced banning restocking fees for returned items.

eBay, and indeed other marketplaces, are quite at liberty to set their own rules and expectations for sellers, which at times may be more onerous than the minimum legal obligations. We may not always like their rules and indeed at times may violently disagree with them. There are only two realistic choices however – we either play by the marketplaces rules, or if the marketplace rules make it unprofitable to operate on their site the decision has to be taken to stop trading on their platform.

Knowing the rules, most sellers will build the cost of compliance into their margins and it’s also worth remembering the maxim that the customer is always right even when they’re wrong. Whilst we strongly urge marketplaces to kick off bad buyers who habitually abuse the system, it’s a very unpalatable truth that there are plenty of sellers queuing up to replace those that leave. However, once a good buyer has what they view as a bad buying experience they may be very unlikely to return to eBay for a long time if ever and we all need buyers.

  • Toby
    6 months ago

    The problem with fraudulant returns is that the buyer knows that once the item has been signed for by the seller, ebay automatically refunds them. It is then up to the buyer to prove it was wrongly claimed, which at this stage is pointless.
    What should happen is the buyer should have to offer some kind of proof that the item is how they say, in the case of not as described etc and in the case of faulty the item whould have to be inspected by the seller before an automatic refund is given.
    Sadly ebay see anything that means the buyer has to do anything extra is seen as bad, while the seller being conned and out of pocket is seen as perfectly ok. Thus ebay has a reputation of being a fraudsters paradise. ( not that they admit it).
    So i buy item X, it arrives and it is blue rather than red. I message the seller and tell them along witha pic of the blue item. Seller sees they have sent the wrong one and refunds. If however the seller disputes the evidence then the case should be appealed by the seller within a set time frame. Yes, i know at this stage ebay always side with the buyer, but if they want to be seen as a fair place to trade then they need to do more. However i think that but making it less easy to con a seller, there will be less trying it on anyway.
    Last year i recieved a £350 pool pump and filtration system back as faulty. over all in postage alone it cost me £25. Buyer stated it wouldnt turn on. So i plugged it in and flicked the switch… yep worked fine. I emailed them to say it was fine, the reply was… ‘found it cheaper elsewhere….’
    But no one does this on ebay, their ceo said so!

  • Mark
    6 months ago

    The last 2 paragraphs sound as though they were written by eBay customer service.

    They continually point out that buyers who have bad experiences do not come back. Well we see many buyers leaving hundreds of negatives and they queue up to buy more and leave more negatives.
    As for rules above and beyond the law of the land this opens a whole new can of worms.
    If a buyer chooses to return something in any way that is above and beyond your legal requirements yes you will be required to accept it back. But when you receive it if the item is not in an acceptable condition for resale and is a clear breach of your rights as a seller. You can then claim your costs legally either from the buyer or the platform that instructed them that this was acceptable.
    The platform is the liable party in all of this. As they made the buyer believe they had that legal right. But as your seller agreement with them does not state that you accept all returns etc regardless of condition and they as the platform are the only party profiting from the rule.
    They profit because they financially penalise a seller for not offering their required services and promote over and above you companies that do.
    Then walk away from the case when it is bad leaving the seller at a loss.

  • james
    6 months ago

    “it’s also worth remembering the maxim that the customer is always right even when they’re wrong. ”

    Anyone who believes that is a moron.
    Anyone who espouses it as having value is a liar.
    Don’t agree? point me at your shop and watch me be a wrong customer, and let’s see how long it takes you to agree i’m wrong.
    “Hey Chris, your product upset my hamster, so you owe me 3 grand.”
    Always right my a**e!

    • james
      6 months ago

      also your entire point in this article is that we, eBay’s customers, are wrong.
      do what eBay says, because they are right.

    • 6 months ago

      James, as a customer of eBay, naturally you are always right, even when you’re wrong.

      The thing is though, if you want to play in someone else’s game then you have to abide by their house rules whether that be playing Poker, Monopoly, or selling on eBay.

  • Katrina Hess
    6 months ago

    One must also understand that there is a limited number of expert ethical professional high value sellers and when they are stolen from repeatedly or told by eBay Customer service that they are not knowledgeable in areas where they are clearly experts they move to other venues.
    Professional expert ethical sellers have moved in droves to other venues which removes properly described high value, high ASP, high GMV and High FVF items from the sight taking high value buyers with them.
    The biased buyer policies in the past 8 years has grown a class of thieves who routinely use eBays “pro buyer” stance to defraud, to steal to make unfounded claims and are often fellow sellers themselves in the same categories.
    eBay treats all buyers as end users when in high value auction items over $500US generally sell to other businesses. Business to Business transactions have different legal standards then Business to consumer and Bad buyer behavior unchecked has caused many professional ethical educated sellers to leave the platform.
    When high value ethical professional sellers leave the platform the following happens
    1) Average selling price goes down
    2) GMV goes down
    3) Final value fees (the bulk of ebays profit generation) goes down
    4) Trust in the platform erodes as the best most knowledgeable sellers leave

    Bad Buyer Behavior is traceable and can be stopped within the data stream eBay already has on hand.