eBay offers a great way to free up some space in your garage, wardrobe or the cupboard under the stairs - and make a few quid doing it. Listing your item is simple enough - but if you’re unsure, we’ve already posted a helpful guide full of tips to ensure you get the best price for your item.

If the item’s condition is accurately explained in the description, you make your returns policy clear, and the item is posted in a safe and timely fashion, you shouldn’t have any problems. It's also a good tip to keep all communication with the buyer through Messages in My eBay. 

[Read more: 9 tips for getting the best price for your goods on eBay]

However, just as a deal can go wrong when buying an item on eBay, there can be mishaps to overcome when selling your spare stuff through the auction site. Here are some tips to resolve the differences when the transaction doesn’t run so smoothly.

What to do if you haven’t been paid

First of all, perhaps the number one rule when selling on eBay is to never post the item until you have received payment - and that payment has cleared. While we’d all like to trust every buyer, not everyone operates in such good faith.

While most buyers will complete their payment and check out immediately via PayPal or credit card following the completion of the auction (you can even require instant payment for Buy It Now Auctions), others will want to send a cheque, if you have chosen to accept that method. If a few days have passed without receiving payment, here’s what you should do:

Send the buyer a message

eBay advises you give the buyer two days to pay before doing anything. Once this threshold has passed, it’s always best to contact the buyer personally, before taking action with eBay. Perhaps the winner of the auction forgot? Maybe the cheque is in the post? Usually a resolution can be found.

To make contact, find the listing in My eBay, click the buyer’s User ID, and select Contact Buyer from the options to send them a message. This message will be delivered through eBay and to the buyer’s registered email account.

1: Find an alternative contact method

If a response is not forthcoming, you can request the buyer’s further contact information, such as a phone number, through eBay. Head to this Advanced Search page and enter the buyer’s User ID, along with the related item number. This request will also forward your contact details to the buyer, allowing the two of you to get in touch.


eBay find member screenshot

2. Resend the invoice

To remind the buyer that he or she has not yet paid and to request payment, you can resend the invoice.

Go to your sold items, find the item, then select Actions and Send invoice. If you would like to review the payment and shipping details, select Preview invoice before sending.

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3. Take it up with eBay

If it’s within 32 days of the item ending, you can get eBay involved to mediate in the Resolution Centre. Select I haven’t received payment yet and enter the order number (available in My eBay) to open a case. This gives the buyer four days to make payment or request a payment extension. If you only offer payment through an electronic means (PayPal or credit card), you can configure the Unpaid Item Assistant, which automates the entire process for you.

eBay resolution centre

4. Get your fees back and try again
If the buyer ends up paying, the case will automatically close. If not, you can request your seller fees back from eBay as a credit. At this point you can put it down to experience and relist the item for sale or make a Second Chance Offer to the next highest bidder. This is also possible if the seller decides to Cancel the Transaction after the auction has ended, or if the seller does a runner and closes their account after the transaction.

Buyer says the item hasn’t arrived

It happens. Stuff gets lost in the post, addresses can be incorrect, or items can be delayed. This is why it’s always a great idea to get a tracking number from the Post Office or courier service when shipping the item.

Uploading the tracking number (if you print shipping labels via eBay, this is automatic) when shipping the item can help quell seller concerns. It’s also a good idea to keep your Post Office Proof Of Postage receipt, so you have evidence that it has indeed been sent. Make sure you have insurance - particularly for high-value items when shipping the package as this will protect you against loss - or liars.

If tracking details show that the package has been in transit for seven days (10 for international shipments), you should refund the buyer, and get the package back from the shipping carrier.

eBay tracking information screenshot

If the buyer contacts you to say the item is not received and you have no way of tracking it, you can either Contact The Buyer to work out the best way to handle the situation, or log in to your PayPal account to issue the refund. If the buyer opened a Resolution Centre case and evoked the Money Back Guarantee, eBay will refund the seller, and you will reimburse eBay.

If the item has been delivered as described, you are protected if you have tracking information containing, as eBay states:

  1. A delivery status of "delivered"
  2. The date of delivery
  3. The recipient's address
  4. Signature confirmation, if an item has a total cost of $750 (£564) or more.

Buyer says the item isn’t in described condition

As we explained in our guide to getting the best price for an item, it’s of utmost importance to be clear and detailed when listing your items. Never try to cut corners and hide flaws. It’ll only hurt in the long run when the seller wants to return the item.

If a seller complains the item isn’t as described, and opens a Resolution Centre case, eBay claims it will protect you if you can prove it is exactly as described. So make sure you identify those scuffs and scratches, preferably through photos of the items.


eBay description

Just like if it were lost, if the item was damaged in the post you are responsible, not the buyer. If the buyer desires, you must accept the return and issue a refund, paying the shipping costs for the return.

In some cases, you may be able to work something out to the satisfaction of both parties without getting eBay involved; for example, a partial refund or a replacement. Be sure to communicate with your buyers in an attempt to resolve any differences amicably.

[Read more: How to win on eBay every time]

Buyer wants to return the item

All listings require a returns policy, even if that’s just to say returns aren’t accepted. This protects both the seller and the buyer. When you listed your item, you should have been clear about your return policy.

eBay’s Money Back Guarantee doesn’t cover ‘buyer’s remorse’ - so whoever bought your item needs to abide by your stated returns policy, unless the item isn’t as described. So, if six months after selling the item, the seller wants to return it, you’re under no obligation to do so.

You can list the return window (for example, 14 days), how the refund will be issued, what condition it must be in and whether there is a ‘restocking fee’. This can save disputes after the fact.

If you have accepted the return request from the buyer, the key is always to wait until the returned item has been received before issuing the refund. That is eBay’s policy too.

As a seller, you are liable for return shipping costs.

Cancelling an eBay transaction

If, for some reason, you’re unable to send an item you’ve sold - for example, you miscounted how many you have, or you’ve noticed an unlisted defect - you can cancel the transaction. Before you do this, eBay advises you contact the seller to let them know why.

eBay screenshot cancel order

Head to My eBay, select Sold and find the item. Select the More options drop-down menu and click Cancel this Order. If payment has been made you will need to refund the seller. For PayPal transactions it is automatic, but for alternate methods you’ll need to need to refund the buyer within 10 days.

eBay buyer has left negative feedback

Negative feedback on items sold can really damage your reputation and ability to get top dollar for your items – with many buyers being put off by even one uncomplimentary remark.

eBay likes buyers and sellers to work together to resolve all differences amicably before feedback is left, but unfortunately an irate buyer can make an ill-informed decision to blast you without consulting first.

eBay screenshot reply to feedback

Sellers are also protected from buyers using negative feedback to extort them. For instance, eBay says, buyers cannot use feedback or detailed seller ratings to force a seller into providing goods or services that weren't included in the original item's description or purchase price, giving a refund or accepting a return.

Another reason to use My eBay Messages when communicating with sellers, is that eBay will not accept reports of Feedback extortion received through email outside of eBay because the site says these can be “easily falsified”.  

On the plus side, you can always respond to the feedback you’ve received, telling your side of the story. If the dispute is resolved amicably and cooler heads prevail, you can ask a buyer to revise the original feedback, hence expunging the damaging comments from your reputation. If the feedback contains profanity, or other policy violations, you can get it removed.

If you need more advice, you can also look at eBay’s Answer Centre, where buyer and sellers ask fellow members questions about buying and selling on eBay. 

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