Ebay’s money back guarantee has given a buyer carte blanche to nick my goods

It has refunded his money and I’ve lost my expensive headphones

I recently sold quality Grado headphones on eBay. A man bought the headphones and then, a week later, filed a dispute claiming he suspected the headphones were not genuine.

I emailed him a copy of the original receipt and the serial number with instructions on how this can be checked to ensure the item is authentic. Then the buyer claimed the item was “not as described”. eBay settled the dispute in his favour, asked him to return the headphones and refunded him £153, including postage.

A week later I received the box and, indeed, a pair of headphones, but not the ones I sold. These look like something issued on a budget flight but eBay states the refund is irreversible. PJ, Windsor, Berkshire

This is a dismayingly familiar tale. eBay says it relies on the evidence presented to make fair decisions, except that it would seem the buyer presented no proof to back up his claims while your evidence was ignored. The company must have a guilty conscience – although it insists correct procedures were followed – for, following my intervention, it reviews your case and decides that it will reimburse you the money it took as a “goodwill gesture”.

Worryingly for sellers, anyone can claim an item they bought was fake and claim their money back. If they can’t produce hard evidence, it’s treated as “item not as described” and the money automatically refunded from the seller’s PayPal account once a postal tracking number is produced.

This goes even if the seller has not received and checked the disputed goods. In your case, eBay proudly trumpeted its money back guarantee aimed at protecting buyers, which has seemingly allowed someone to nick your goods. Since eBay won’t even admit you’ve been defrauded, its policies give others carte blanche to do the same.

If you need help email Anna Tims at your.problems@observer.co.uk or write to Your Problems, The Observer, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Include an address and phone number.


Anna Tims

The GuardianTramp

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