Troubles with eBay

Had some troubles with eBay recently that came to an interesting conclusion.

The Situation

I bought something that didn’t work, contacted the seller which opened a case, returned the product and wasn’t refunded within 30 days of contacting the seller.

Unknown to me, the fact that it had been 30 days since I first contacted the seller (which in turn opened a case that I didn’t have any choice about opening) meant that I automatically lost all protection as a buyer because I didn’t escalate the ‘case’ to a ‘claim’ within that time-frame.

I was being patient giving the seller time to refund me, but they didn’t. When I phoned eBay about this, they said that I was informed about this time limit when I opened the case. I dug out the email while on the phone, and it reads:

If we don’t hear from you by 29 Aug, 2013, we’ll assume that things have been resolved, and your case will be closed. Note that once a case is closed, you won’t be eligible for a refund through eBay Buyer Protection for the item.

On the phone, they say very clearly “If the case is not escalated within 30 days”, in the email they say “if we don’t hear from you”. As I had been actively communicating on the case, I had no awareness that communicating on the case does not constitute “hearing from you”.

They also confirmed that users get an email before the case is closed automatically. That email is not in my eBay Messages, it’s not in my email account (we never delete emails) and eBay has no record of it being sent so cannot confirm that it was sent.

To further complicate the matter, the default eBay help page on buyer protection says that you have 45 days to work out issues with sellers (screenshot). There is no mention of 30 days anywhere on that page, or of escalating cases to claims.

Obviously feeling slightly irked by this, I spent a good while on the phone to eBay seeking to determine what my options were. I spoke with 2 people who advised me that despite having no clear communication about the 30 day policy, there was nothing they could do, aside from contact the seller on my behalf and ask them to refund me. They did so, and the seller did not refund me.

The Big Guns

I then emailed the guys from Tamebay, a popular e-commerce blog, telling them my story. Although saying they felt for me and that there was little they could suggest to do, they did contact eBay and had the case investigated. (I also wrote an official letter of complaint to eBay and wrote to my PayPal account manager as it was through our company account – I’m yet to hear back on those fronts!).

The Conclusion

This morning, I received an email and phone call to confirm that someone in eBay’s UK office had investigated my case and had decided it in my favour via the appeal process (to circumvent the face that case had been closed). I was told explicitly on the phone the first time that I could make an appeal but it would be automatically unsuccessful as I had gone over the 30 day period.

More importantly, they also said that they will be updating the wording of the email and of the help section (I think) in a week’s time to better reflect the situation. They will also look into the fact that I wasn’t emailed informing me the case would be closed.

Result! Great to have my money back, but also great to know that someone has listened, understood the problem and taken appropriate action to have it remedied. For me, that’s the most important point. Huge thanks to Tamebay for following this through and hopefully others won’t get caught out like this in the future.

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