Online auctions are a great place to pick up a deal, but the nature of the beast means that you can have a bit of a harder time sorting things out if something goes wrong. That's not to say that eBay should be avoided, but it's important to understand a few things first. This guide looks at some of the main points in conjunction with your consumer rights.
eBay and Consumer Contract Regulations
Until recently the Distance Selling Regulations didn't apply to goods bought in an auction, and thus there was no right to automatically return the items if you won an auction, then changed your mind. Thankfully the government has now introduced the Consumer Contract Regulations, which extend to auctions and gives you an automatic right to cancel. You now have the right to do so from the moment you place your bid, right up until 14 days after receiving the goods.
Refund on Your eBay Purchase
We now see a lot of big businesses, and even some high street stores trading on eBay due to the volume of traffic the site gets. Aside from that there are a lot of nefarious individuals who think they can slip under the radar, providing poor service and difficult communications.
If a seller claims to have not received the goods back, you are entitled to a refund within 14 days of the date printed on your proof of postage. However if the seller deems that you have had some use out of the item, they are entitled to deduct some money to account for this usage.
Regardless as to whether you've bought the item via auction, 'buy-it-now', or 'best offer', your rights as a consumer remain the same under the Sales of Goods Act, Consumer Rights Act and Consumer Contracts Regulations, for more information please see our dedicated articles.
eBay Money Back Guarantee
If you're making purchases through eBay, it's a good idea to use PayPal as it gives you additional security as a consumer. For a start all purchases automatically qualify for the eBay Money Back Guarantee, which allows you to claim if an item doesn't fulfil it's description, is faulty, or doesn't do what it's meant to. It basically re-asserts your rights as stated in the Sales of Goods Act, and allows the convenience of being able to claim from eBay/PayPal when negotiations with the seller have reached a stalemate.
Of course you are also covered if the order doesn't show up, and you can claim for a refund at any point up to 30 days from your actual or estimated delivery date.
To get the process started you first open a claim with the seller, who has 8 days to respond. The seller can then dispute the claim, or offer to settle it with a refund or replacement. If the seller doesn't respond or refuses to take any action, you can then ask eBay to resolve the issue. They will review the case information provided in communications between you and the seller to reach a decision, but it's worth noting that the buyer almost always wins such disputes when a reasonable argument has been provided.
PayPal Buyer Protection
Aside from the eBay Money Back Guarantee, PayPal has it's own resolution system called PayPal Buyer Protection which you can utilise instead of the eBay process. It's very similar to the eBay process, but allows disputes to be opened within 180 days of payment being made (as opposed to 30), as well as giving you the ability to claim against other (i.e. non-eBay) retailers.