eBay Return Policy - A Complete Overview

Nahar Geva

20 Mar 2019

If you’re a good eBay seller, it’s likely that you’re delivering products to customers that meet or exceed the expectations they formed when they came across your listing.


When you deliver products that meet or exceed expectations, you have a low return rate.


Because of this, returns are something that many high-performing eBay sellers don’t think too much about until their business scales past a certain point.


And why would they? If returns represent such a small amount of the business, a seller often has little incentive to focus time and energy on this area of the business.


The problem is, returns will ultimately have a negative impact on your business in a few ways:


  1. They’ll eat into your profits.

  2. Handling returns (shipping, restocking, etc.) takes time.

  3. Depending on how you handle returns, it can have a negative impact on your customer experience.


As your business grows, the negative impact of returns do as well, so it’s important to figure which eBay return policy option is good for your business and fair to your customers as early as possible.


eBay return policy - A detailed overview for sellers


If you’re going to sell on eBay, it’s important that you have a good understanding of what options you have as far as handling returns.


So that you can be fully informed to make the best decisions for your business, here’s a detailed overview of what you need to know about eBay’s return policy.


eBay return policy options


For every listing, eBay requires that you have a return policy in place.


The return policy options for eBay sellers are as follows:


  • No returns

  • 30 days, paid by buyer

  • 30 day free returns

  • 60 days, paid by buyer

  • 60 day free returns


It’s important to note that to become a Top Rated seller on eBay, you must offer at least a 30 day return policy with your listings.


If you sell in any of these categories, you’ll also have the option to offer a 14 day return period:


  • Collectibles & Art

  • Camera & Photo

  • Medical, Mobility & Disability Equipment


eBay restocking fee and partial refund terms


While eBay doesn’t allow you to charge a restocking fee, you do have the option to offer only partial refunds if the item has been used or damaged. This option is only available to sellers who offer free returns to their buyers.


So, if you want to have a shot at top seller status and want to be able to offer only partial refunds to customers who return a product that’s in a worse condition than you shipped it in, offer at least a 30 day return period and make it free to the buyer.


The only exception to this is in the following categories, where buyers can offer partial refunds even if they don’t offer free returns:


  • Business & Industrial

  • Parts & Accessories

  • Collectibles & Art

  • Cameras & Photo

  • Medical, Mobility & Disability Equipment

  • Home Improvement

  • Furniture

  • Musical Instruments & Gear

  • Yard, Garden & Outdoor.


eBay money back guarantee


Finally, it’s important to note that eBay does have a money back guarantee that applies when the product doesn’t arrive as described, so make sure you provide honest, transparent details about the product in your listing description.


How to create or change your eBay return policy


It used to be the case that eBay would require you to enter detailed descriptions of your return policy that are specific for your business with each listing, but they’ve since gotten rid of this in order to provide a better buyer experience.


Now, it’s as simple as making a few selections on your first listing, then letting eBay automatically apply these selections to future listings.


So, to make changes to your eBay return policy, you’ll want to create a new listing or edit an existing one.


To do this by creating a new listing, click the “sell” button in the top right...


ebay sell button location



...then typing the name of the product you want to sell into the text box.



ebay tell us what you're selling text box


You can also change your return policy for an existing eBay listing.


To do this, hover over “My eBay” in the top right and click “Selling”


myebay selling selection

Next, in the menu on the left, click “Active” to view your listed items.


view listed items on ebay


On the item you wish to edit, click the arrow next to the “Sell similar” button and click “Revise.”


edit listed item return policy on ebay



The final steps to change your eBay return policy on a new or existing listing will be different depending on which tool you’re using to list your products - the quick listing tool or business listing tool.


As a general rule, if you’re selling at lower volume, stick with the quick listing tool. If you’re selling tons of products at high volumes, the business listing tool is a better fit for your needs.


How to set or change your return policy with eBay’s quick listing tool


If you’re looking to set or change your return policy using eBay’s quick listing tool (the default listing tool that low volume eBay sellers use), here’s how to do it.


First, scroll to the bottom of your listing.


Under the “shipping” box you’ll see some text that says something like “Your current listing preferences are Payment method: xxxxxxxxx, Item location: xxxxx, Returns accepted: No, More options: Enabled.” with a button that says “Change.” Click that.


change your return policy on ebay


Next, you should see a popup that looks like this.


popup to change your return policy on ebay


Using the dropdown menus, you can set your return policy based on the available options.


Once you’ve set your return policy preferences, simply click “save”.


Your return policy options will now apply to all future eBay listings.


How to set or change your return policy with eBay’s business listing tool


If you’re using the business listing tool, things are a little bit different as far as return policy options.


The main difference, other than how you edit your return settings, is that you can set your preferences for international returns separately from domestic returns.


To edit your return settings using the eBay’s business listing tool, scroll down to the “Selling details” section and look for the “Return options” sub-section.


ebay business selling tool return options


Check the boxes for the return types you accept and edit your preferences for each.


ebay business listing tool return types


Use the dropdown menus to select your return policy options, and you’re all set!


eBay return automations


Another cool feature on eBay is that, if you do accept returns, you have the ability to automate your return settings.


This can allow you to do things like:


  • Accept some returns automatically and process others manually

  • Refund the buyer automatically, but allow them to keep the item. This can be good if the cost to return the item isn’t worth the effort.

  • Provide different return addresses for different items.


Handling returns immediately can save time, sure, but it also provides a great experience for your customers which can help improve your seller rating.


If your business is growing fast, this is definitely something you should look into.


How to set up return automations on eBay


First, you want to head to the return preferences page in your account.


To get there, click “My eBay” in the top right corner.


myebay button location


Next, in the menu on the left, expand the “Sell” selection, click “Returns,” then select the button on the right side that says “Set up return automation rules.”


set up automation rules on ebay


On the page that follows, you’ll see two sections.


The first is “Send a refund”.


send refund ebay automation


In this section, you can choose to let the buyer keep an item and automatically refund them if the refund amount is less than what you specify.


You can also apply this filter to specific “return reasons” as listed in the second box.


To apply this automation, just enter the appropriate details and click the “Turn on” button.


The next section you’ll see is the “Approve a return” section…


approve return ebay automation


In this section, you can choose to automatically approve returns if the total refund cost is less than a certain amount. This can be good to set up if you’re looking to further automate your return process.


Again, you can also apply this to specific return reasons.


Once you’ve entered the appropriate information, just click “Turn on” to apply this automation.


There’s also an option at the bottom that allows you to create more advanced return automations…


ebay automation advanced rules


Here, you can do things like…


  • Automatically agree to replace specific items based on a specified set of filters, such as refund total, return reason, and even specific items.

  • Send refunds automatically or automatically approve returns for specific items based on a set of filters.

  • Any of the above, but for item categories.

  • ...and more.


It really depends on what you’re looking to automate. Your automation needs are going to be very specific to your business, so take the time to explore what options you have.


How to avoid returns on eBay


We’ve gone over the details of eBay’s return policy, how to set up your return settings on eBay, and how to set up return automations on eBay.


This is all great, but even with a good return process in place, having returns can hurt your profits and, if you pay for the returns, can even cost you money.


So, how do you avoid returns?


Here are a few tips.


Stop selling returned frequently returned items


If you’re selling items that are frequently returned, then something is wrong with your business model.


Alternatively, you may be selling an item with a naturally high return rate. Items like designer handbags, phone cases, formal wear, and electronics have higher return rates than other categories because people may use these products for events and not want them anymore.


Formal wear may be purchased specifically for prom, gold in iPhone’s can be sold at cash-for-gold stores, and some women essentially “borrow” designer handbags by making frequent returns.


If you know this is a potential issue with your area of business, you may be able to adjust your return policy to combat the high return frequency, but then you’ll lose top rated status.


Authenticate designer items


Selling counterfeit goods isn’t just against eBay’s terms - it’s also illegal.


If you’re selling handbags, high-end blue jeans, sunglasses, or watches, make sure you get them authenticated.


To do this, you can use a service like Authenticate FIrst. Prices start at $20, and you’ll receive a certificate of authenticity that you can include in your eBay listing.


Make sure your measurements are accurate


When selling clothing, furniture, or any other item where space is one of the deciding factors when making a purchase, you want to make sure your measurements are accurate so the buyer can make an educated choice about whether or not to make the purchase.


You think your customers will keep that pair of pants of they’re too big? Or that side table that doesn’t fit between their recliners like they’d hoped? I doubt it.


In addition to written measurements, an effective way to show the size of an item is to take a picture of it next to a coin such as a dime or quarter.


Don’t just include measurements for clothing items. Include them with everything you sell. Better safe than sorry, right?


Make sure the item you’re selling works and that you have all the parts


If an item has missing parts or doesn’t work, it will likely get returned. With eBay’s money back guarantee, this applies even if you have a no returns policy.


If you’re selling something you’re unfamiliar with, do the proper research to make sure it’s packed with all of the parts necessary for it to function.


In some cases, it might also be a good idea to test the product to make sure it works.


A common eBay scam is for buyers to purchase a product, return it without all of the parts, and claim that the parts weren’t included with the original shipment of the product.


To combat this, make sure that when packing the item, you have documented evidence that you packed all of the parts.


Take pictures as if there’s no description


On the internet, as is true with traditional retail, people are visual shoppers.


Many people will skim over the description and may miss important things - like the fact that a product is partially damaged.


This can be frustrating for sellers to deal with, but to be sure buyers don’t miss anything, make sure you provide visuals showing the damages to the product, if any. eBay recommends taking 8-12 photos for the best buyer experience.


Provide photos from all angles and show any defects it may have so they know exactly what they’re getting from the images alone.


Package carefully


Damages during shipping is something neither the buyer nor the seller want to deal with.


Here are some packing tips to avoid damages to your shipment:

  • Use a container thats bigger than the item you’re selling so you can properly cushion it with packaging materials.

  • Add packaging materials like bubble wrap, packing peanuts, foam, or paper around your product so that there's no room for things to move around.

  • Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape, or paper tape that is at least 2 inches wide.

  • Tape the opening of the box and reinforce all seams and edges.

  • Include the shipping and return address in an obvious location on the package.

  • If you're reusing a box, mark out any previous addresses with a marker or cover up the previous labels.