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How to Deal With Disputes on eBay

In an ideal world, there would be no disputes on eBay. You’d describe your item fully on the listing, the buyer would pay quickly, you’d send the item out properly packaged, it’d arrive promptly and everyone would be happy.

Sadly, that’s not always the way it goes. Even if you handle your sales as well as you can, things can go wrong. Sometimes, something might happen in your life that means you can’t get to the post office as quickly as you’d hoped. Sometimes, things get lost or damaged in the post. Sometimes, the buyer didn’t understand what he or she was buying. And sometimes, very occasionally, you might encounter someone who just doesn’t want to pay you for your item and causes problems after the transaction has been completed.

If your buyer is unhappy, they might open a case against you with eBay, and you’ll need to work through how to handle it with them.


The first thing you should always do when dealing with problems on eBay is communicate with your buyer. You should do this by using eBay’s messaging service, which means there’s a record of all your communications; don’t be tempted to take it to a separate email.

If an item is going to be delayed for some reason, you could let the buyer know ahead of time – if they feel like they know what’s going on, they’re less likely to get stressed about it. Also, be apologetic if something’s taking longer than expected; it never hurts.

eBay-seller-center How to Deal With Disputes on eBay

eBay’s Seller Centre offers advice on how and when you should issue a refund

If a buyer has contacted you to say their item hasn’t turned up, and you have already posted it, you can ask them to wait a bit longer and see if it arrives. However, be prepared to offer a refund if it never does arrive. Your sold items are your responsibility while they’re in transit, so it’ll be up to you to make it right. If you have more than one of the item, you might want to offer to send a replacement. Depending on how you sent the item, if you have proof of postage, you should be able to claim compensation from the Post Office – again, this is your responsibility, not the Post Office’s.

Although buyers might get angry when their stuff hasn’t arrived, do be polite and friendly at all times. Getting angry in return won’t help and can make the situation more fraught. Being nice should make the buyer more polite too.

If the buyer is complaining about the item being different to what they expected, you’ll have to discuss it with them and potentially admit that you’re in the wrong. Check your original listing. Did you make a note of any defects there might be, and did the photographs you used show the item as it really is? If it was misleading, the buyer might be justified in complaining. Otherwise, you can show them where you mentioned any flaws in your listing, and apologise if they were confused.


Buyers who still aren’t happy, even after you’ve talked to them, will escalate their cases and get eBay’s customer services department involved. You’ll be notified, and eBay will give you eight days to respond. If you don’t, Customer Support will get involved. As many sellers have found out over the years, eBay tends to side with buyers in any dispute over items that don’t arrive or aren’t as described, so if it comes to it, it will tell you to issue a refund. Try to sort things out with your buyer before things get to this stage. If a case is opened against you, funds in your PayPal account may be put on hold until the case is resolved, which could be seriously inconvenient.


If you agree with your buyer to give them a refund, you should issue that in the same way that the buyer originally paid you. If they used PayPal, it’s fairly straightforward: in ‘My Account Overview’, click ‘Refund Payment’ for the transaction in question and follow the instructions on screen. The money should be returned immediately.

If a case has been opened against you in the Resolution Centre, you’ll have to issue the refund through the Resolution Centre. If you agree to give them a refund and don’t process it within three days, eBay will do it for you, assuming there’s enough money in your PayPal account. Otherwise, it’ll send you a reminder, and eventually it might refund the buyer directly, then chase you for the balance.

Resolution-Center-eBay How to Deal With Disputes on eBay

You might need to open a case against a buyer yourself if they don’t cough up!

Depending on the circumstances, you could choose to offer the buyer a partial refund. That might happen if the item is not quite as they expected or got damaged in transit. Once you offer the buyer a partial refund, they have ten days to accept or refuse your offer.

Remember, through all of this conflict resolution process, you ultimately need to try to make the buyer happy. If they’re not satisfied, they can leave you negative feedback, which will reduce your feedback score and look bad to future potential customers. As a Seller, you should know that Feedbacks and Ratings are important.


Of course, as a seller you also might need to file a dispute against a buyer. That’ll only really happen if they commit to buy an item from you but never send their payment. If that happens, you can open a case against them. Go to the Resolution Centre and click the relevant radio button to start opening a case.

You have 32 days from the time the listing ends to open a case, and if the buyer doesn’t respond or pay within four days, the case can be closed. You won’t get your money, but eBay will refund your Final Value Fees, and you can relist the item.

As a seller, you can’t leave negative feedback for buyers, as eBay brought in a new policy to stop retaliatory feedback loops on the site. However, in 2012, after complaints from lots of sellers about buyers acting unreasonably and dishonestly, eBay did bring in a reporting system. If you’re dealing with a buyer who made unreasonable demands, who left inappropriate feedback, didn’t pay or abused the returns policy, you can send eBay a report. In the feedback section, pick the ‘Report a buyer’ option, and write a full report of everything that went wrong. You can include screenshots, if necessary – for example, if a buyer sends you rude emails.

Once you’ve submitted a report, eBay will investigate within a week and, if necessary, it’ll take action. That might just mean emailing the buyer to tell them how they should conduct themselves on the site, or it could mean suspending their account entirely. eBay won’t always tell sellers what’s going on, due to data protection laws, but it does take reports seriously.

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