PayPal expanding return window to six months


Nice deal for eBay buyers, but is it unfair to sellers?

Deservedly or not, eBay and PayPal have long had reputations for being unfair to eBay sellers (especially small-time ones).

eBay and PayPal are already facing multiple class-action suits from sellers complaining about an alleged “buyer is always right” policy: specifically, claiming that eBay and PayPal, the payment-processing company currently owned by eBay (though the two are splitting off into separate companies next year), consistently side with buyers over sellers in any dispute, thus making it easy for dishonest buyers to keep whatever items they bought and receive a full refund of the purchase price, too.

And a newly proposed change to PayPal's return policy, slated to come into effect on November 18, will arguably make matters worse:

We’re increasing the time for buyers to file a merchandise dispute (Item Not Received and Significantly Not as Described) from 45 days to 180 days.   All references in the User Agreement to “Opening a Dispute within 45 days” have been updated to reflect “Opening a Dispute within 180 days.”

Six-month window

In other words: any buyer using PayPal to purchase items from online vendors will enjoy a six-month return window, which in turn means no seller can assume a transaction is truly complete (and payment received truly theirs) for that long.

Arguably, there are many types of purchases for which a 180-day return window is reasonable, or even too small: if you buy a major new appliance, for example, you'd certainly want to return it for a full refund if it stopped working less than six months later, or even after a year.

But for other types of new items (and most secondhand goods), a six-month return policy might be overkill. Consider: in August, when we reported the then-latest updates in various “seller is always wrong” suits against eBay and PayPal, reader and eBay seller Alex Leonova wrote on Aug. 15 to point out why eBay's current return policy might be a little too generous, at least regarding the sale of shoes:

Ebay took from me about $200 in fees and forced me to refund money for a pair of shoes that I sold 3 months ago because a guy suddenly changed his mind. With their new policy of 90 MONEY BACK GURANTEED for the Holiday, it's a total BS. A person if buys a gently used item can wear stuff then return it after 90 days and if you won't even accept a return they will just deduct the $$ from your account. Also that sellers cannot leave negative feedback to buyers or make a note that should be addressed also! That's very corrupt way to do business.

But if a 90-day return policy for new clothes and shoes is bad, a six-month return policy for antique items is arguably worse. In response to the proposed PayPal policy change, the Vintage Fashion Guild posted a petition onto asking that the sellers of vintage and antique items be exempted from the 180-day return window, because:

Vintage and antique goods are delicate and fragile and often require careful handling and storage. It is important that purchases be opened, inspected, and then properly stored within a reasonable time-frame to ensure they remain in the condition they were sent. Not doing so can compromise the goods and even cause them to deteriorate. This new policy removes the sense of urgency in taking care of a vintage or antique item soon after its delivery and allows too long of a time window for the item to sit in its packaging and potentially become damaged by rough handling, extreme temperature changes, etc. Simply put, Paypal's new policy will be overly burdensome and possibly disastrous to those who sell vintage and antique goods online. To expect a seller to refund for claims for vintage and antique goods that have been out of their possession for 180 days is unreasonable. ...  we formally request that these type of sales continue to be governed by PayPal's current 45 day policy which is fair to both buyers and sellers. 

PayPal's new return policy does exempt certain types of purchases, including real estate, businesses, industrial machinery and “intangible items, including digital goods.” But it says nothing about clothing, shoes, or secondhand items of any age. The policy's much shorter “seller protection” says only:

PayPal Seller protection is protection we provide Sellers from Claims, Chargebacks, or Reversals that are based on:

Unauthorized Transaction or

Item Not Received

PayPal Seller protection is available for eligible payments from buyers in any country. However, if you sell or market to buyers outside the U.S., please read the PayPal Buyer Protection policy and PayPal Seller Protection policy of the countries in which you are selling (accessible via the “Legal” or “Legal Agreements” footer on most PayPal site pages) as these policies will apply to you as a Payment Recipient or seller.

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