I’ve written this in a bid to warn other eBay sellers of a scam that’s left us out of pocket to the tune of almost £1200 and totally frustrated at the lack of care or fairness shown by eBay – not to mention the fact that they’re enabling a scammer to carry on, despite knowing exactly what they’re up to and having evidence to support it.
I’ll start at the beginning and try to keep it succinct however there is a fair bit to explain so please bear with me and as always, please feel free to share, comment or offer any pearls of wisdom…
My husband and I both have eBay accounts which we use to buy and sell – I mostly sell kids clothes and the like while he sticks to electronics – recently we decided to sell our mobile phones (iPhone 7’s) and each listed them on our respective accounts. They were both fully working, in excellent condition and scuff/mark free, having been kept in cases with screen protectors.
A couple of days later they sold and whilst we were packing them we noticed they had both been purchased using the ‘click and collect’ option eBay now offer, allowing them to be collected from a branch of Argos. *Mine was sent to Argos in South Ruislip by special delivery at a cost of £7.30 and hubby’s went using same delivery method to an Argos in London.
About a week after they had been delivered we both got an email from eBay saying that our customers wanted a refund as the phones were faulty – mine claimed the camera no longer worked whilst hubby was told the light on his didn’t work. As soon as the buyers started the return process Paypal stepped in and held the funds for both – £289 + pp from mine and £295 + pp from hubby’s.
We both chose the option for eBay to issue return postage labels and sat back to await the returns arrival.
Some time passed until, last Monday (17th September) at 10.33am when hubby and I both received eBay emails stating that the returns had been delivered and we had 48hrs in which to refund the buyers.
I checked the porch and hall (lived at same address with same postie for years – no issues before) but could find no sign of any packages at all so I rang the sorting office. The lad who answered explained that the system was down and I would be better calling in the morning to speak to the supervisor.
Tuesday 18th Sept: Called the sorting office at 8am to be told that the postie had scanned our items outside number 5 (we live at 9) and he thought he’d delivered them to number 3 or 5. Customer service guy said he’d asked the postie to try and remember where he had put them so they could be retrieved and I assumed it was a (stupid) mistake.
I called back for an update to be told that the postie was now saying he definitely didn’t have any post for us at all on Monday. Bearing in mind I had been told earlier that they’d been scanned nearby and about the possible mix up, I now began to suspect the worst – that our parcels had been stolen. At this point I decided to call Royal Mail Customer Service.
After a lengthy discussion with them I was given a reference number and told to call back on Friday after 9.30am for an update. Following this I called eBay to make them aware of the situation and to ask for an extension on the time to issue a refund so that I could get to the bottom of it, explaining that we did not have the phones and offering the Royal Mail reference number. The person I spoke to didn’t want the number and told me to do nothing but wait until the refund date had passed, at which point eBay would contact me to ask why and I could then state my case, including any reference numbers etc.
Thursday 19th Sept a.m: Postman knocks on the door with another parcel for us and goes on to say that he had given that day a lot of thought. He said that he was 100 percent sure that, whilst we had no post at all that day, number 1 did receive 2 padded envelopes that were from eBay and that was what he scanned outside number 5. He went on to say that he was positive they weren’t our phones because they were both flat and very light – he suggested they could have had papers or a sim card in them at most.
Thinking that there had been some strange mix up with tracking numbers, I put together a note including my number for my neighbour and posted it through her door, explaining what I thought had happened.
I then nipped out for half an hour – upon arriving home I saw that I’d had 2 emails from eBay, 20 minutes apart, the first saying the buyer had opened a case demanding a refund and the second saying they had found in his favour and shut the case. With no time to even respond I decided it was best to wait to hear from my neighbour before contacting eBay again – by then I was feeling totally confused by the whole situation and had nothing new to tell them.
Thursday p.m: My neighbour sends me a message to say that she had received 2 empty envelopes on Monday, they had no name on and she didn’t know what to make of it so she had put them in the blue bin the night before. After a couple of messages back n forth she offers to retrieve them and post them through my door.
Now, if you’re still reading this I would like to say thanks and your patience will be rewarded -this is where it gets interesting.
The envelopes are from eBay and are identical, the way the labels are attached is the same and, interestingly the senders name and address are also the same (different customers, remember?).
Each envelope has an eBay issued label but neither has a name and the address has been edited from number 9 to 1. Suddenly things started to make sense – whoever had done this obviously has some knowledge of eBay and how the loopholes work.
By changing the details on the official labels, the buyer had ensured that the packages was still scanned near to our house and, by omitting our names, had almost guaranteed that they would never find their way to us – leaving us unable to prove what had happened. It is only because of our postie taking the time to speak to us and my neighbour still having the packaging that we are now able to fill in the blanks and realise that we have indeed been scammed.
I requested a callback from eBay straight away and ended up being put through to an Irish lady called Niamh in the UK centre. After explaining that I now had the packaging and that it was delivered empty to the wrong address she asked me to go into detail about what exactly was on the label.
Niamh was clearly shocked as what I was describing was different to what had been issued by eBay and explained to me that it must have been edited – none of the customer details were correct, the senders name didn’t match the eBay accounts and the only thing that was correct were the tracking numbers.
She asked me to upload photographs of the packaging attached to an email she was sending and said that as it was clearly “a large scale operation” and “involved multiple accounts” she would pass it to the risk management team, getting back to me with an update on Saturday morning at 11am.
Saturday 21st Sept a.m: Niamh called as promised and said she “nearly choked” when she saw the photos – they were so edited it was ludicrous. We discussed the fact that the senders address is actually a freight company and that both had been collected via Argos – pretty much making the whole thing anonymous. Niamh again intimated that we had been caught up in what was clearly an organised scam and assured me it was being escalated to all the relevant teams, as well as the authorities. I asked when we could expect a reversal on the refund decision – after all there has to be some seller protection and it was clear what had happened. I also pointed out that this person now had both our phones and almost £600 in cash – a kick in the stomach with a slap in the face for good measure. She explained it would take time but not to worry, it would be sorted and decisions can always be reversed.
She ended the call by promising to call on Monday with a further update and hopefully some information about a refund.
Saturday 21st 11.30pm: I get an email from eBay thanking me for contacting customer service regarding the iPhone and telling me that they “understand how frustrating it is when a buyer doesn’t return an item in the exact condition it was sent out” and that they “appreciate the screenshots of the labels” I sent.
They then go on to say that because they “did not see the condition of the item when it was receive day the buyer vs how it was returned” they must “remain impartial and having the buyer return the item in exchange for a full refund was the best resolution” so they had decided to uphold the decision to find in the buyers favour.
No mention of the fraudulent label, the empty envelopes or any of the other highly relevant points.
I went to bed fuming and resolved to call first thing in the morning.
Sunday 22nd Sept 9a.m: Spoke to eBay, again. The advisor said that the email had been automatically generated and once a barcode had been scanned as delivered the system acted as such – apparently humans cannot override the algorithm they created but, not to worry – she could see there was an appeal going on and that Niamh would be calling me on Monday with more information.
Monday 23rd Sept 5.30p.m: After waiting all day and not receiving a call from eBay I decide to call them. I’m told that Niamh will be emailed with a request to call me and it will be sometime in the next 24 hours.
Tuesday 24th Sept 9.30a.m: Received the following email from Niamh – perhaps she couldn’t say it to me over the phone….
“Apologies for the delay in getting back to you yesterday and appreciate you working with me to provide any relevant information needed about the returns on your and your husbands account.
I sent the details off to our Risk Management Team and they are doing an internal investigation on the buyer/buyers.
Unfortunately, After reviewing our original decision on this case, we’ve decided to deny your appeal. This case exceeds the 200GBP coverage threshold for a fraudulent return. We also do not have the item in our possession at any stage and cannot verify the condition of the item to deny someone’s statutory right.
As a company eBay cannot cover these costs for a business seller, I’m sure you appreciate it from a business perspective it wouldn’t be financially possible for us to cover every single situation like this. We will internally investigate them for this behaviour and the relevant action will be taken. Last year alone we removed 3 million buyers from site for breaching our returns policy. eBay work very hard at making the site a safe community.
I recommend that you report this to Action Fraud and proceed with the case through Small Claims Court.
I appreciate this isn’t the resolution you were hoping for but hope that you understand the process that has occurred..”
That’s it, no refund, no comeback and no way of warning others, thanks to eBay making it nigh on impossible to leave negative feedback on a closed case.
I’m unsure of what the best course of action is but know that this has to stopped – eBay must be held to account for scamming that they acknowledge themselves is so rife that “from a business perspective it wouldn’t be financially possible for us to cover every single situation like this” – writing the whole sorry state of affairs seems to be a good place to start.
Have you faced a similar situation whilst selling on eBay? Interested in hearing from you as I’m planning to keep making noise until someone listens….