What happens if you sell stolen items on eBay?



The e-commerce corporation eBay was founded in 1995. Photograph: Ebay/PA

Not many websites have “sellerbrated” a 25th birthday – yes, it launched in 1995 – and the online auctioneer remains the first port of call for those shifting their excess stuff. It is easy to use and you can list almost anything on the site. Its main advantage is its scale, meaning your items will be viewed by the widest number of potential buyers, hopefully resulting in you getting the best price for them. You can either opt to auction the item or sell it for a fixed price using the “buy it now” option.

However, eBay will take 10% commission on the final sales price and postage, capped at £250, as well as a further 2.9% plus 30p if the buyer pays via PayPal – which virtually everyone does. This means that if you sell a breadmaker for £100, and charge £10 for packing and delivery, you will only receive £85.51 after eBay has had its share. Every so often eBay has “sell for £1 max” weekends, which can increase how much you get to keep considerably.

You can also pay direct by bank card.

Another caveat is that unscrupulous buyers are targeting people selling high-value items on the site. Guardian Money has highlighted a number of cases in which eBay/Paypal has forced sellers to refund buyers who claimed that the item wasn’t in the parcel when it arrived, or was damaged. They get away with it because eBay typically sides with buyers when there is such a dispute.

One reader recently lost £450 after selling a pair of rare trainers on eBay. Despite packaging and photographing them carefully, the buyer who had never bought an item before claimed the trainers were in poor condition and demanded his money back. The problem is getting so bad that some sellers have stopped listing high-value items items on eBay – see below. Try to deal only with highly rated buyers, or better still insist on cash on collection.

Suddenly Locked Out of Your Account

You're suddenly “locked out” of your eBay account. If without warning you are suddenly unable to log in to eBay using your username and password, it's likely that someone else has obtained your username and password and has used them to log into your account and change the password, logging you out.


Unexplained Transactions

Unexplained transactions appear in your PayPal account. If you find that money has either flowed into or out of your PayPal account in ways that you didn't authorize or don't recollect, someone has likely obtained your login information and is using it to log into your account and manipulate your financial reserves in one way or another.

What not to do when an item goes missing

Having previously discussed what sellers should do when an item goes missing, here are some pointers of what sellers should definitely avoid when dealing with ‘item not received’ claims.

Refuse to claim responsibility

It is not possible for sellers to claim that they cannot be responsible for missing or damaged items, even if stated in an item listing. Under eBay’s Money Back Guarantee rules, sellers must take responsibility for missing items unless tracking information proves that the item was delivered correctly.

If a seller does not refund a buyer when required, eBay will forcibly take the funds to resolve the situation.

Ignore the buyer’s messages

As mentioned, the Money Back Guarantee entitles buyers to a refund if the item is not received. Ignoring messages from the buyer or the open transaction claim not help or progress the situation. eBay will take action and the seller is the one with most to lose.

If tracking information shows item lost, refund the buyer

eBay’s position on missing items is clear – buyers are entitled to a refund under the Money Back Guarantee. If the tracking details show that the item has been in transit without movement for more than 7 days (10 for international shipments), refund the buyer the full sale amount including the shipping cost.

If the seller does not have any kind of tracking information, the resolution is the same. The buyer is entitled to a full refund. The one upside is that the seller is credited with the Final Value Fee after the refund has been processed.

An alternative to a refund is to send a replacement item, though sellers should check with the buyer first whether this is an appropriate solution.

Make an insurance claim with the shipping company

The next step for a seller with a missing item is to make an insurance claim with the shipping company. This usually involves providing proof of the item’s value (a PayPal transaction record is one example of evidence) and a copy of the original shipping receipt.

No insurance? Seller without shipping insurance will likely find themselves out of pocket for missing item transactions.

Seller frustrated by eBay over figurine dispute

One seller who is seriously disillusioned after listing items on eBay is Melanie Easton, from Newport, south Wales. The housing officer is facing a £900 loss after she drove three hours to deliver a collection of 41 porcelain figurines she had sold for £2,300.

The buyer inspected each one on delivery and even messaged Easton as she drove the three hours home to say how thrilled she was with the purchase. The buyer also left a positive review of the transaction.

However, when a few days later the buyer contacted her to complain that nine of the figurines were damaged and as a result she wanted £900 back.

“These figurines were in excellent condition when I delivered them, so had been damaged while in their possession. I have refused the refund but eBay is backing her even though they have agreed that she has changed her story and had ample time to examine the goods when I delivered them.

“I have been through the appeals process but it’s like they are not reading what I have said or are just ignoring it,” she says.

Because the buyer paid using PayPal, Easton has been told that it will take the money back – putting her account into debt. Had she taken the cash on delivery, the buyer could not have gone down this route.

“I paid eBay £229 in fees and opted to use Paypal because I thought it was safer. I know now that it has just given an unscrupulous buyer the chance to take £900 back from me,” she says.

EBay told us it had placed the case on hold in the hope that the buyer and seller could reach a resolution and shortly before we went to press Easton told us that the seller had withdrawn the claim.