eBay provides a marketplace for thousands of online buyers and sellers.
The way you buy affects your legal rights and whether you are covered by the Distance Selling Regulations.
These vary depending on whether you're buying from an individual or a business, and whether you win an auction or have bought at an agreed price from a seller. PayPal also has it own dispute resolution process.
- If you choose to 'Buy it Now' or 'Make me an offer' as opposed to bidding on eBay you have greater return rights under the Distance Selling Regulations
- If you buy from a business rather than an individual on eBay you have greater refund rights under the Sale of Goods Act
- If you end up in a dispute with a buyer or seller, the eBay Buyer Protection scheme is there to help
eBay - your rights buying from a business
If you buy something in an auction from a business on eBay, then it's unlikely you'll be able to complain about the item you receive unless the goods are not as described by the seller.
Make enquiries about the condition of the goods and make sure they are fit for your particular purpose before bidding on them.
The Distance Selling Regulations (DSRs) don’t apply to goods bought at an auction so you’ll have no automatic right to return an item if you are the highest bidder and you change your mind.
Check the seller's terms of sale to see if they have voluntarily agreed to accept returns and what that returns policy is.
The seller can set a reserve price which they are not obliged to disclose – if the reserve is not met you can’t force the seller to sell the item to you.
Buy it Now
Many sellers will set a 'Buy it Now' price which you may think is worth paying if there's an item you really want and don't want to run the risk of losing out on in an auction. In practice the seller is offering two different ways of buying the same item.
While the item bought through the auction wouldn’t be covered by the Distance Selling Regulations, it could be covered if you bought it from a business using the 'Buy it Now' option
Your item would only be excluded from cover if it was an item the Distance Selling Regulations don't apply to, such as something that was personalised for you, or items such as CDs or DVDs which have been opened.
But because you're buying from a business you would have the protection of the Sale of Goods Act if the goods weren’t of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or as described.
Make me an offer
Some sellers offer a third option which enables you to put forward a price that you would be happy to pay.
If the seller accepts this offer then a contract is created and, as with 'Buy it Now' purchases, the contract would be covered by the Sale of Goods Act and the Distance Selling Regulations - unless the item is one that the Distance Selling Regulations don’t apply to, or that you don't have the right to cancel.
eBay - your rights buying from an individual
Many individuals will sell unwanted gifts or items that they no longer need.
Here you're buying from a private seller in the same way as if you were buying from a classified advert in a local paper, and the principle of 'buyer beware' applies.
When you buy from an individual, the Sale of Goods Act says that the goods you get must be as they were described to you.
For example, something second-hand should not be described as new - if it is, the seller will be in breach of contract. If a seller takes your money, but then sends nothing they would again be in breach of contract.
Some people who sell through eBay may be doing so much business that they are considered traders rather than individuals.
In this situation you would have the same rights as if you bought from a business, but you would have to find evidence that the seller is indeed a business if you wanted to make a claim against them as a business seller.
eBay Buyer Protection
eBay offers it’s own dispute resolution process. But there are some conditions that need to be met which include:
- your claim must be submitted within 45 days of payment for the goods
- you must have paid through PayPal and into the seller’s PayPal account. If you haven’t you can still submit a claim and eBay will try to resolve the issue with the seller
- you must have made only one payment and sent that payment using the 'Pay Now' button
- the item mustn't be on the list of excluded purchases. These include items purchased from classified ads and vehicles including cars and motorbikes.
You can use eBay Buyer Protection if the item was significantly different from its description or it was broken or didn’t work in the way that had been described.
In both cases you must have raised the issue with the seller and given them three days to respond.
You can also use the process if you didn't receive the goods within three days of the estimated delivery date, or if a delivery date isn’t given within seven days of making payment.
The seller can either dispute the claim, offer a refund or a replacement, or send the original if it was never delivered.
If the seller doesn’t respond or doesn’t accept the claim you can ask eBay for a resolution.
If the seller said it would provide a refund or a replacement, and more than five days have passed since the seller has received the item you sent back, you can also ask eBay for a resolution.
If eBay upholds the claim, it can process a refund which will be made as a PayPal credit.
eBay Buyer Protection also applies to counterfeit goods. If the goods are found to be fake, eBay can require you to destroy them.
PayPal Buyer Protection
PayPal also has its own dispute resolution process called PayPal Buyer Protection which you can chose to use instead of eBay Buyer Protection.
Find out how to claim against PayPal if you don't get what you paid for.
This can also be used if you make a Paypal purchase from a trader that wasn’t operating through eBay.
It's very similar to eBay Buyer Protection in that a claim can be made in the same circumstances and payment must have been made in specified ways.
As with eBay Buyer Protection, a dispute must be opened within 45 days of payment but certain items aren’t covered, such as motorbikes and cars.
If you and the seller can’t resolve the dispute, the dispute must be escalated to a claim within 20 days of lodging the dispute.
If PayPal finds in your favour, it can order the seller to refund the original cost of the item and the postage you paid. But you would be responsible for the cost of returning it to the seller.