eBay Service Metrics Penalties Update

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

It’s been a month since eBay announced that (in the UK) they would delay imposing eBay Service Metrics Penalties until the 1st of February 2019. A month into the the four and a half month respite, it’s time to ask how your metrics are looking and if eBay are delivering the support you need to be ready for February and avoid being fined on every sale.

It’s worth noting that the additional 4% uncapped final value fee eBay Service Metrics Penalties are already being applied in other countries such as on in the US. If you have an eBay account then check your metrics carefully and keep an eye on your eBay invoice to see if they apply to you.

David Brackin, an experienced high volume eBay seller and Trading Assistant summed it up nicely pointing out that sellers needed more information and better tools to understand it in order for the metrics to be fair.

“The metrics are complicated and the dashboard tricky to understand so it’s absolutely the right call to back off enforcement based on this information until they’ve had a chance to simplify, fix and sellers have had a good chance to understand what is going on. I don’t know about other sellers, but I’m looking forward to having extra business intelligence provided free of charge to understand if I have problems in some category or other. None of us wants more returns, do we?”
– David Brackin, Stuff U Sell

eBay agreed announcing that they would provide guidance and video tutorial to help you understand the metrics.

“We won’t be applying the surcharge to sellers directly listing on who are rated “Very High” in the applicable categories until 1 February 2019. This is to give you the time to get to know the Service Metrics tools and dashboard and to take the opportunity to improve your rating if necessary.

In the coming weeks, we’ll also provide new guidance on how the Service metrics work, and video tutorials to explain how the metrics can be used to inform your selling practices on eBay.”
– eBay

Do you have the tools you need to understand eBay Service Metrics Penalties?

eBay have produced a couple of videos, one answering sellers questions regarding eBay Service Metrics Penalties and a second walk through explaining how to use the eBay Service Metrics dashboard.

We’re still hearing from some users that the dashboard isn’t presenting the correct information – do you have he tools section available to enable you to monitor your metrics? For those that do, the question is, does the dashboard give you granular enough information to drill down and identify discrete products which are dragging your metrics down and if so can you figure out the steps you need to take in order to reduce the number of Item not as described cases opened against you?

If you have checked your metrics (and if you haven’t you should) and determined whether or not you are liable for eBay Service Metrics Penalties, do you feel that you have all the information and help that you need?

Unfair Item Not As Described cases

One of the big complaints from sellers is the number of cases claiming to be Item not As described when the product is exactly as described.

Sometimes basic simple customer support can assist a buyer configure a product and, hey presto, suddenly it works and it was the buyer’s mistake. Some categories such as clothing can be subjective, for instance if a particular fashion label has tighter fitting clothes than another it’s not unusual for buyers to claim clothes are mis-sized even when the manufacturers label clearly states the size. In other cases sellers assert that buyers claim an item not as described simply because they’ll then get a return shipping label paid for by the seller rather than having to foot the bill themselves. It’s not unheard of for a buyer to deliberately damage a product in order to claim a return.

Sellers are naturally feeling aggrieved that these false item not as described cases will still count against them, even if the supposed issue that the buyer claims is resolved. Even if a return was claimed to be not as described and post event eBay agree and refund the cost of the return shipping label, the case will still count against you in your metrics.

eBay explain this away by saying that you will be measured against your peers and that all sellers in the same category will on average experience the same level of false item not as described cases. That’s tough to come to terms with when you’re faced with a buyer being economical with the truth to get a free return because they’ve change their mind.

High volume and Low volume sellers

The critical period for high volume sellers with over 400 sales is October, November and December – Your assessment will be the 20th of January which will determine if you’re hit with surcharges in February. With a three month look back period, returns already count towards the total that could incur penalties even if you’re unable to see them in your dashboard.

If you are a low volume seller then the look back period will be a full 12 months. However, the look back period started on the 1st of June 2018 so on the 1st of February 2019 when eBay Service Metrics Penalties start to be imposed you’ll only be measured on the past 8 months performance. If you’re in danger of being charged the uncapped 4% surcharge then past performance won’t drop off your metrics and the only way to improve is to increase sales and become a high volume seller or increase your performance significantly to balance out past cases.

If you have a serious issue with your account, then the best advice is to take a holiday, trade on a second eBay account, and wait until the bulk of the cases dragging your metrics down drop out of the look back period. I remember fondly the day I received a congratulations email from eBay on becoming a Top Rated Seller on an account I put on holiday. Having sold nothing for 9 months and the issues dropping out of the one year look back period, all was forgiven and eBay suddenly loved me again. Having a second trading account with feedback and sales history is a sensible precaution to take for all professional eBay sellers – the important thing to do is go on a self-imposed holiday before your metrics get so bad that eBay step in and take action.

  • Rob
    8 months ago

    I don’t trust ebay with this system. Not only are we getting hit with the cost of dealing with item not as described cases due to buyers selecting the wrong reason to avoid paying return postage. Then having to spend time dealing with the return and ebay. ebay then want to make money from this with potential penalties with the service metric.

    When asking ebay how to protect myself better the only answer they can give is give free return postage as they are more likely then to select buyers remorse.

    You are not safe even after which ever return period you provide or ebay money back guarantee period as had someone open a not as described 45 days after collecting which still goes on the service metric.

  • scrapeby
    8 months ago

    There is nothing any seller can do to prevent a buyer claiming item is significantly not as described.


    If a buyer wants to return an item and wants the seller to pay all postage costs they will select this option.

    The seller is improperly propogated by eBay – the platform does not investigate these claims; it does not tell buyers “no”; it does not change the reason to a return; it does not remove defects; a defect is even registered when the item isn’t returned.

    A button press and the seller is guilty, because some cheapskate tosspot presses a button.

    And if you observe standards..

    If you read eBay’s user agreement, you will recognise that it doesn’t commit eBay to anything nor any standards whatsoever; in fact, it even permits them to not show paid-for listings. And if you have used eBay for any length of time, you will recognise that all they do is find ways to further increase their take whilst hassling and persecuting sellers. I do not consider eBay to be a partner seeking a long-term mutually beneficial and reciprocal arrangement; instead I see it is a parasite seeking to leech as much blood as possible out if its host.

    This service metric is really a metric which shows how much inflammation they have stirred up amongst buyers, who are motivated to try to get something for nothing and is nothing to do with the seller who is merely a victim of eBay’s laissez-faire attitude to managing buyers and their expectations.

    Item not as described is caused by eBay; instead of reiterating that items are “sold as seen” and that the buyer has got what they paid for, instead there is the relentless, ceaseless inflammation towards escalation and returns, whether they be deserved or not.

    I despise eBay; I would perhaps be considered a “good” seller as I have the 0.00% across the real metrics; but even then they are playing games with me, my sales have dropped like a stone since 1st October and I know why.

    eBay are a shitbag company to work with.

  • lotus nut
    8 months ago

    Like many am just sick to death of these metrics and constant change requirements ebay keep demanding of sellers which are all about extracting more £&$ from sellers

    I also list items on two other platforms now so ebay are loosing more revenue.

    Its starting to show as stock price down further by about 8% today!!!!! and expect will be even worse when Q3 earnings are realest.

  • Emily
    8 months ago

    Under UK law you can not charge a penalty for something that hasn’t happened. Ebay are charging business sellers a penalty on return requests. They can’t do that a request can be closed by the buyer with no further action or time out without a return occurring.

  • Mike
    8 months ago

    “eBay explain this away by saying that you will be measured against your peers and that all sellers in the same category will on average experience the same level of false item not as described cases.”

    eBay’s explanation is absolute BS. Pure and simple.

  • 8 months ago

    our company sells on many sales channels and a common phrase in the office these days is “f*ck eBay”. If there extra time required to adjust the way listings appear for example , we just dont do it. More sales on Amazon,Wish,etsy ect.

    Ebay allow multi variation listings but images can only change on one variation option.. why?

    Message from a seller about an order, you have to open another tab, orders dispacted, copy and past the username to try figure out whats going on… why? why not a link to the order info from the message?

    customer opens a request.. Click into request to see the problem… then have to come out of request to see the username to search it… what?

    Ebay has not changed since compuserve days.

    • 8 months ago

      So true! I have two screens on my PC here and frequently have a couple of eBay tabs open on each screen trying to get the info that I need from the eBay website…

      It’s a shame that they haven’t copied Amazon on that front…!

    • alan paterson
      8 months ago

      @ Michael, I think the solution is to simply have a couple of tabs open. I think your other gripes are very minor (just my opinion).

      we sell on several platforms much like yourself. I have always found ebay the most “friendly” platform. When dealing on Amazon Seller Central its less “friendly” – no graphic representation of the product sold and generally just a sea of text and sku codes with the exception of the inventory pages. Although this presentation makes for faster loading times I much prefer the presentation of ebay which is far more tolerable if you are working on the site for hours on end.

      You say ebay hasn’t changed since compuserve days. I remember those days well. In fact I have some screenshots of ebay – simply unrecognisable compared to now. some exaggeration I think Michael to make your point? there has been mammoth changes to the ebay platform both in terms of its functionality and presentation.

    • Dave
      8 months ago

      Try this one Alan, the link to the latest selling announcement from the eBay seller hub.

      Broken links (Fashion outlet? Daily Deals?)
      Looks like 1999…


    • Alan Paterson
      8 months ago

      @ Dave. Not good, i agree. But nothing like 1999 lol.

      To look at the platform, ebay shops, new seller hub etc its ridiculous to even contemplate comparing the platform to 1999.

      Ok, so there are problems glitches etc. However we are talking relatively speaking.

      Show me a web site that doesn’t have the occasional glitch.

      ebay get a glitch and you would think some sellers were Chicken Little. (with respect)

  • Alan Paterson
    8 months ago

    The service metric principle is based on the assumption that you and your peers will all get the same percentage of “abuse” of the return policy.

    This is simply not the case in practice.

    It is completely random and uncontrollable.

    How are seller meant to improve on something that is out with their control?!

    The metric should be based on the sellers eagerness and ability to solve the “problem” for the buyer and turn their experience to a “positive”.

    The defects should at least be removable when they are clearly “wrong”. I hear ebay are monitoring buyers and removing the defects caused by repeat buyer offenders. However, how frequent do they need to do this before they are classed as “repeat offenders”. No use at all.

    this should be like all other defects – if it is clearly not the sellers fault these defects should be removable and common sense applied to each individual case.

    • Lucy
      8 months ago

      I totally agree with you Alan. We had one buyer who ordered two items the same day from us using two different eBay user ids. He returned both items claiming they were faulty. They were not faulty, they came back working but heavy used and a mess. If like him they have several accounts they will slip through the net of repeat misuse of return buyers. So ebays system of monitoring repeat offenders will not work.

      The returns metric penalty charge is unfair, but it appears eBay are intent on falsely penalising sellers and allowing dishonest buying practices to go unpunished.

    • Rob
      8 months ago

      @Alan, trouble is common sense will cost ebay money and what is common sense to one person is not to the next person.

      I like most would be ok with a fair system where were are not punished further by fraudulent buyers. If the listing matches the reason then that should not count. If the item does not get sent back it should not count.

      ebay seem obsessed with free postage and offering free returns. I see their adds add the minute offering free postage and when speaking to customer support they advise to offer free returns to stop buyers abusing the system. They keep pushing free this free that and claim it is industry standard yet when asked to prove it they can’t.

    • 8 months ago

      I completely agree Alan.

      Uncontrollable is the key word there. We have no control whatsoever about buyers opening a return. It’s the default button for a start!

      I had one last week which was approved automatically (timed out as I knew the buyer was lying and wouldn’t talk to me). eBay then sent them a return label at my expense and then refunded them automatically as ‘something’ had been delivered. The buyer would not converse with me, they’d swapped out the main circuit board in an expensive UHD Blu-Ray player and nicked the expensive remote. I couldn’t even give them a partial refund as eBay put the funds on hold. Now I’m out of pocket, have a returns metric defect and a transaction defect for a case closed without seller resolution because I didn’t want to give a thief a refund. In eBay’s world, all of that is my fault and it’s just the way things are.

      And they wonder why Amazon is doing so well. They need to sack off this returns metric ASAP. The straws are all piling up now. Yes, eBay makes money but I’m finding it very hard to be enthusiastic about it…. Life it too short.

    • Alex
      8 months ago

      @ Dave take ebay to court, it is wrong that buyer fraud goes unpunished. Report the buyer to Action Fraud too. Ebay really need to be regulated.

    • Dave
      8 months ago

      @ Alex, someone needs to take eBay to court.

      As it stands now, they’ve set up an automated theft process. It’s surely just the work of a moment to buy a load of high-end gear from us business sellers using guest accounts, run the purchases through eBay returns with the free return shipping as it WILL time out at some point, open a case once it’s been delivered but not refunded, get your money back for returning ‘something’ and make a tidy profit selling the booty.

      Someone please tell me that I’m wrong?

    • Dave
      8 months ago

      And just to enhance my day further… it get’s better. There’s some new awaiting dispatch screen today. Just turned it off and pressed the button to ‘Tell us what you think’

      404 Not Found

      The page you requested cannot be found. The URL may be misspelled or the page you’re looking for is no longer available.

    • Alex
      8 months ago

      @ Dave – ebay should not be allowed to give a buyer a full refund if the seller gets in touch with them to say the buyer has returned a different item. Sellers should be allowed to open cases against buyers and the money should be kept on hold until a decision is made. If it needs to involve action fraud or the court so be it, but leave the money on hold until the court decides the conclusion. Sellers can then provide photographs and documents to court showing the condition the item left them and the condition it arrived back with them. Ebay all to often use the excuse we don’t see the item so have ruled in favour of the buyer. Court would judge on actual evidence provided and sellers would stand a better chance of a fair result.

    • Sophie
      8 months ago

      @ Alex if fraudulent eBay buyers were taken to court by sellers, maybe buyers having county court judgments against them, would start to make them realise fraud has consequences and eBay are not above the law.

  • Harvey
    8 months ago

    Online market places should be regulated. Hopefully now ebay are handling finances with the new managed payments system they will be regulated by the financial ombudsman. Maybe then we can get them to look into the issues surrounding the returns metrics penalty charge.

  • Tom
    8 months ago

    The eBay returns system is out of control, some buyers know exactly how to abuse it.

    Example today – buyer returned a small empty envelope just so tracking would show returned item was delivered. Item originally sent by us in an 80cm postal tube, so would not physically fit in this envelope. Explained all this to eBay.

    Ebay response – “Although we understand that you received your item back in a different condition than when you sent it (HA!), unfortunately we couldn’t determine that this was caused by the buyer or that this was something in the buyer’s control.”. – full refund to buyer at our expense.

    Unbelievable. Just one example of many.

    • james
      8 months ago

      a while back we had a full 5-door wardrobe set with matching King Size bed and a Pair of bedside tables sent back to us, in a single envelope with an RM tracking number. apparently. ebay refunded that buyer despite us repeatedly pointing out that a full bedroom simply doesn’t fit in an envelope.

    • Lucy
      8 months ago

      We had something similar and won it on appeal. We also reported the buyer to Action fraud. If we hadn’t won the appeal we were prepared to take ebay to court.

  • Brendan
    8 months ago

    This is an absolute farce of a system. The fact that they are going to be puuting a 4% penalty on sellers with their half assed metric system shows nothing but utter contempt for sellers. We sell car parts on eBay and we plaster as much info in the item specifics as possible about checking fitment, sending reg details before order to ensure fitment and we inevitably get a not as described or wrong item sent return. The thing is that we do send the exact item ordered the buyer has just taken no care in ordering and eBays compatibility guide does not advise a buyer to double check fitment. We would be deemed high atm with peers about half of our percentage. I don’t know what other sellers are doing for eBay to claim this average rate but I find it extremely hard to believe. If we slipped in to Very high eBay could charge us a fortune and ruin our business. It’s a money grab to make up for lack of traffic on the marketplace and that is only Ebays fault with their lack of real innovation or plan.

  • Harvey
    8 months ago

    Ebay is so negative for business sellers. We get scammed by buyers and eBay give them full refunds at our expense. Then eBay themselves decide they will hurt us more by creating a returns metric penalty charge so that what little profit we get they get a bigger slice of the pie.

    No wonder ebay sales are down, it’s reputation is appalling.

  • 8 months ago

    Finally, our service metric graph looks like the one in the picture in the story. Since its inception, our peers have been shown as in the ‘High’ category. We’ve now been dropped into the middle of the ‘Low’ section, where before we were above the middle of ‘Average’.

    Pressing the ‘Download report’ button still doesn’t do anything however. Useless.

    When was it announced? August or something?

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