Camera sales shemozzle highlights how eBay policies affect sellers
Alan Tessier has been buying and selling items on eBay for two decades, but he had never encountered problems like the ones he faced on his last sale, which left him more than $1,000 poorer.
The Ottawa resident sold his Canon 90D camera in late February and shipped it to the buyer, who bought it on the eBay marketplace. When the camera came, that person changed their mind and didn’t want it anymore.
Tessier said he had been involved in 112 transactions on eBay, both as a buyer and a seller, and felt « safe » using the site. This transaction was another story.
The person in London, Ontario who purchased the camera shared photos with Tessier showing that the camera was dirty, not in the « perfect » condition he posted it in.
Ebay deemed the buyer to have a valid claim and issued a refund. Tessier said he agreed for the company to purchase a prepaid return shipping label. He also showed CBC a March statement balance from eBay where he was charged C$21.20 for shipping labels.
But the label provided by the company was for the United States Postal Service, Tessier said, which didn’t help sending anything to Ontario.
« Apparently because it didn’t work out they just threw up their hands, » he said.
Tessier says his camera was never returned. He got $160 from eBay, but that was nowhere near the value of the camera. After three months of frustration, he approached CBC.
On June 6, after CBC contacted eBay about the situation, Tessier said he received an email from the company stating that it had paid him $985, the remaining amount owed to him.
Ebay spoke with the seller and was able to « amicably resolve the matter, » a spokesperson said in an email to CBC the same day.
WATCH | After months of fighting, eBay refunds seller after buyer got away with camera
« Attention seller »
Tessier said the process took frustrating months of calls and emails. Consumer advocate Daniel Tsai says it’s a cautionary tale for anyone looking to sell through online platforms.
« To me, this is a seller beware situation, » said Tsai, a Toronto-based business lawyer. « In this case, the seller was left with the bag. »
EBay’s spokesperson said the company takes complaints seriously and investigates them. People who buy and sell on the site are protected by « policies, transaction monitoring and data systems, » according to its statement.
After reviewing eBay’s policies, Tsai had a different opinion.
« Contractually speaking, the seller doesn’t have much to do because eBay left it so ambiguous and gave it no protection in the contract, » he said.
That leaves the seller with little recourse except to go through a « very long, expensive and stressful small claims court process » while the buyer retains ownership and a refund, the attorney said.
If it happened to a salesman like Tessier who lost a « significant » amount of money, « it probably happens to other people, » Tsai added.
Beware of scams and “morons”
Tessier said he kept trying to contact the buyer because, as he said, « It’s $1,125. I mean, if it was a pair of shoes for $30, you would say live and learn. »
All of his follow-up emails bounced back as « undeliverable. »
Tessier, a business analyst by trade, suggests eBay use an easy-to-find link for return shipping labels. He also wants sellers to « read everything and make sure who is responsible for paying what. »
Tsai echoed Tessier’s sentiment.
“Really, eBay should step up and protect these sellers as much as they protect buyers,” he said.
« Sellers need to be all the more careful and aware to protect themselves from potential scams or buyers who are just fools. »