I work for a company that has an eBay account with top-rated seller (TRS) status. Recently, we had a case decided against us by eBay on the basis that the buyer "swore" he was telling the truth regarding an iPhone we'd sent that had been stolen in the post (the buyer claimed he received an empty package with a slit down the side and did not realise this for nearly a week). The buyer refused to go to the police or co-operate in any way, stating that he wanted an immediate refund, otherwise he would open a case and leave negative feedback.
The buyer had an eBay history of around two weeks. When the case was sent to eBay to decide the outcome it took 54 minutes to decide in the buyer's favour. No information was requested from us. When pressed later, an eBay rep said eBay had had the customer sign an affidavit and they took that as proof that the item was stolen from the package.
Our status as TRS, the buyer's non-history, the evidence that he had refused to co-operate with any investigation counted for nothing. In theory, anyone who knows the system can get a freebie from eBay which, of course, comes from the seller's pocket. DB Glasgow
Ebay's seemingly kneejerk defence of buyers when disputes are raised is a familiar subject in this column. So much so that eBay puts me in touch with its vice-president Lynda Talgo to reassure Guardian readers that sellers are cherished. She rejects suggestions that eBay's dispute resolution service is an automated process, given the enormous number of transactions per day.
"We do have some investment in technology," she says. "If a buyer hasn't received an item and the seller has tracking, the technology would decide whether the item was sent, but when it comes to an appeal a human would look at the case 100% of the time." She claims these eBay humans study the buyer's online history to detect patterns of abuse and she defends the new "defect status", which shows a defect against a seller when a case is opened against them. "We went by buyer research and what causes them to come back and buy more," she says. "If a package is late it causes buyer anxiety and that puts them off. If we resolve in favour of the seller, the defect status is removed." It's obvious to all but eBay the weapon this system gives to unscrupulous buyers and the damage it can cause to sellers with previously unblemished track records. And as your case suggests, eBay's mediation seems weighted in favour of the buyer.
Mysteriously, after I contact eBay, it sends you a cheque without explanation but for the exact sum it refunded the buyer. Days later it explains that this is a goodwill gesture due to the "isolated" nature of your case. Isolated? Watch this space!
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