Frequently Asked Questions
- Is offering returns optional for sellers?
Yes, offering a return policy is an option for all sellers. You can offer returns on any item through your item listing’s return policy. When you do accept returns, be sure to customize your return preferences and return policy to fit your business needs.
Listings from Top Rated sellers must offer a 30-day money-back return policy to qualify for the Top Rated Plus discount and seal. The same-day or one-day handling requirement applies.
- Can buyers request a return even if I don’t offer returns?
Buyers are able to request a return for any reason. However, if you don’t offer returns and the buyer asks to return an item because they changed their mind or no longer need it, didn’t like it, ordered by mistake, found a better price, or it didn’t fit, you can decline the request.
- What do I do when I receive a returns request?
Once you’ve been notified that a buyer has requested a return, follow these steps:
- Go to Returns in My eBay or click the link in your notification. From there, you’ll be guided through the return—and can keep an eye on its progress.
- Once you’re ready to accept the return, you can instruct your buyer to print a shipping label on eBay—or send them one by uploading your label in the on-screen returns flow. If you do send a label, remember to upload tracking for the return so that you can both see when it’s delivered back to you.
- When you receive the return, check it carefully. If it’s okay, click “issue a refund” from the Return Details under Returns in My eBay. Don’t forget that you’re protected by eBay’s item condition policy.
- For a visual reference to the returns process, visit the returns infographic.
- Do I have to automate my returns process?
No, you are not required to automate your returns. You have the option to customize and automate your return process so you can handle most returns quickly and easily.
You can create new basic rules, or update existing rules, through your return preferences in My eBay. You can also handle some or all returns manually by not checking any rules.
- Do I have to offer returns on my items?
While eBay encourages sellers to offer great buying and return experiences for online shoppers to achieve a competitive advantage, you may choose not to offer a return policy on your items. When you do not offer a return policy, the eBay Money Back Guarantee applies and your seller standard may be affected. You'll be required to pay for return shipping when the buyer chooses the following reasons:
- It doesn't work or it's defective
- It doesn't match description or photos
- The wrong item was sent
- There are missing parts or accessories
- It arrived damaged
- The item doesn't seem authentic
Sellers only receive a returns-related defect if eBay has to step in to resolve a returns issue, and the resolution is in favor of the buyer. In other words, the buyer's reason for returning an item does not count as a defect as long as you successfully resolve a return request with the buyer without asking eBay for help.
- If I receive a return request and want to send a message to the buyer using the option in the returns flow, will this automatically process the return?
No. If you have not created a rule to automatically approve your return request for this item, sending a message to the buyer does not mean that you are accepting a return request. In fact, unless you’ve set a custom rule to automatically accept returns, a return request is not approved until you “accept a return.”
- Do I need to approve a return request or is it automatically approved?
Your return requests will be automatically approved unless you change your return preferences and add custom rules.
- Can buyers request a return even if my return window has passed?
Buyers can request a return even after your return window has passed, and you can decline that request if the buyer simply no longer wants the item. However, if the request to return an item is made within the eBay Money Back Guarantee window for reasons that the item was "not as described", eBay may refund the buyer and require you to reimburse us for the refund.
- What if a buyer doesn’t return an item after I’ve already processed their refund?
When you process a return request, we recommend that you wait to refund your buyer after the item has been returned to you and you’ve inspected it. Note: Buyers are instructed to ship their original items back to you within 5 business days of opening the request. If you do refund the buyer before an item is returned to you and not see that the item has shipped after 5 days, contact the buyer. If you can’t resolve the issue with the buyer, ask eBay to step in and help.
- My buyer wants me to handle a return outside of the eBay process. What should I do?
Always inform buyers to go to their purchased items in My eBay and use the “request a return” feature. This way, buyers can view and track the status of the return request from start to finish. Additionally, the entire return transaction can be reviewed by eBay in case of an issue where you may need us to step in and help.
- Do I have to pay for return shipping when I offer returns?
To attract more buyers, you should consider offering free return shipping on your items. However, eBay only requires sellers to pay for return shipping when the buyer requests a return and reason for one of the following reasons which are considered “not as described”:
- It doesn’t work or is defective
- It doesn’t match description or photos
- The wrong item was sent
- There are missing parts or accessories
- It arrived damaged
- The item doesn’t seem authentic
Reason for Return Responsibility for return shipping Doesn’t fit (for example: clothing) Per Seller’s return policy Changed mind Per Seller’s return policy Found a better price Per Seller’s return policy Just didn’t like it NEW Per Seller’s return policy Ordered by mistake NEW Per Seller’s return policy Doesn’t work or defective Seller Doesn’t match description or photos* Seller Wrong item sent* NEW Seller Missing parts or accessories Seller Arrived damaged* Seller Doesn’t seem authentic* Seller *Considered a not-as-described reason for return. In this case, sellers are required to pay for return shipping
Customize Return Preferences
- How do I find out more about what automations are best for my selling style/business?
For many sellers, setting up basic return rules for price and return reason are usually sufficient to manage returns requests. You may want to consider any exceptions you have when managing returns in your current returns process and how automation can help expedite the returns process for you and your buyer. Consider these examples:
- Create a refund rule to automatically issue a refund and allow the buyer to keep the item —this is great for inexpensive items when paying for return shipping may cost more than the item’s original value.
- Save time and effort needed to manually approve a return request where the buyer pays for return shipping.
- If you have multiple warehouses where you process returns, create a rule to automatically route different items to specific locations.
- See best practices for more helpful hints.
- What are basic returns rules?
Basic return rules let you choose when you want to automatically approve certain return requests, issue a refund, and automatically send the buyer a return shipping label. You can also choose when to automatically issue a refund and inform the buyer to keep the item (if you don’t want it back). For example, when an item was broken in shipping.
Basic rule options available inside your returns preferences.
- What are advanced returns rules?
Some sellers may want to go beyond the basic return and refund rules and further customize how they want to handle certain types of returns by setting advanced rules. Advanced rules include options to make rules for handling returns within certain categories or lists and the condition of the item. For example, advanced rules could be useful for sellers who want to handle returns for clearance items differently from how they handle full price items. Or, new items versus used items.
Advanced rules: Choose “create your own rule” to further customize how you handle return requests for different types of items.
Next, choose the criteria and click “save and turn on”. You’re finished! You can update and modify your custom rules anytime inside your returns preferences.
- Where do I locate and set my return preferences and policies?
You can set up your return preferences at My eBay > Site Preferences > Return Preferences. Your return policies can be set up when you create or edit your listing. Here’s how it works:
Setting ‘I want to add/edit ______ in my returns’ Return Policy Location Click “ReviewReturn Policy” when creating or updating a listing Return Preferences Go to My eBay > site preferences > return preferences to set rules Who pays for return shipping ✔ Add Replacement options ✔ Automatically approve a return (used with eBay labels) ✔ Automatically send a refund and tell buyer to keep the item ✔ Use of RMA# ✔ Add Restocking fees ✔
- If I decide to automate my returns process, can I still choose my own label?
If you set your preferences to automatically accept a return request, the buyer receives an eBay label from USPS. You may only use the “upload your own label” option when you’re processing a return manually.
- What if I sell fragile items often broken in shipping that I don’t want returned, but I want to refund the buyer?
If you manually approve individual return requests, you can communicate with the buyer and instruct them to keep the item while you issue a refund. Alternatively, you can customize your return preferences to automatically refund and instruct the buyer to keep the item when they've indicated the reason for return is that it was broken in shipping. This expedites the refund for the buyer and allows you to avoid paying for return shipping for a broken item.
- Can I create a rule that applies only to a single item?
Yes, you can create and manage the automation rules in your returns preferences for a single item, a custom list of items, or by item condition or category using advanced settings.
- Can I have multiple return rules for different categories of items I list?
Yes, you may customize up to 500 different combinations of rules in your returns preferences based on many different factors, including how to handle returns of items in different categories, item conditions, price and more. For example, you may want to route smartphone returns to one address, but route televisions to another address. Or, you may want to automatically provide a refund and allow the buyer to keep items where the cost of return shipping greatly impacts your profit margin. You may customize as much, or as little, as you like.
Using Return Shipping Labels
- Can I use my own label if my preferences are set to automatically approve return requests and I refund the buyer?
No. If your preferences are set to automate any portion of the return process, including offering a replacement, an automatic eBay label will be sent to the buyer for return shipping. You may only use your own label in cases where you manually approve returns.
- In hassle-free returns, I had to use an eBay USPS label for return shipping. Is this still true?
Starting in September, all sellers can decide which carrier to use for return shipping labels. If you have been using hassle-free returns, your automated preferences will reflect the hassle-free settings—eBay label. To change from an eBay label to another carrier’s label, set your return preferences to manually handle return requests by un-checking the auto approve and auto refund checkboxes. You can set up advanced rules to manually approve some returns so you can use your own label while automating other returns and using the eBay label. It’s up to you.
- How do I know the cost of a return shipping label provided by eBay?
If a seller is required to pay for return shipping, the cost of the return-shipping label will be displayed when you select a shipping label so you can decide whether to use an eBay shipping label or provide your own label. Remember if you’ve used an eBay label for the outbound shipping, the cost of the return shipping label will never exceed the original outbound shipping cost.
- Do I have to include a tracking number if I don’t use an eBay label?
You should always include tracking when you ship an item because it allows eBay to help if there is a problem with delivery. When you use an eBay label or choose the option to use your own label, tracking is automatically sent to the buyer for you. If you send the buyer a return shipping label through other methods, you or the buyer should manually input tracking information.
If you’ve sent a label outside of the eBay returns process, choose “Confirm you already sent a label” to enter tracking information.
- How quickly should I send the buyer a return shipping label when I’m manually approving a return?
Ideally you would expedite the return by customizing your preferences to automatically approve a return—which immediately sends an eBay return shipping label and tracking information to the buyer. However, if you're manually handling a return request, you need to send a return shipping label to the buyer within 3 days of the request to avoid a buyer escalating an issue to eBay.
- What happens if there is no available tracking, the buyer claims he shipped the item back – But I never received it?
Because eBay is not able to help sellers locate or recoup items that do not contain tracking through the eBay return process, we strongly recommend you use trackable shipping through the eBay returns flow process to help protect you in case of a delivery issue. If you cannot find resolution directly with the buyer, you can always ask eBay to step in and help.
- Can I send a return shipping label and tracking information using a third-party API?
Yes, most APIs now have this functionality for both eBay labels and alternative carriers.
- Where do I send my buyer to purchase an eBay return shipping label?
After you’ve approved a return request where the buyer is responsible for return shipping, eBay notifies them of your acceptance and provides a link where they can purchase and print an eBay return shipping label. Using the eBay shipping label guarantees tracking will be delivered to you and the buyer in case there’s a problem with delivery.
- When will a return require my signature to confirm delivery?
A seller's signature confirmation is only required when the price of the item is over $750 and the buyer purchased the item using PayPal. In these situations, when you or your buyer uses an eBay return shipping label, it will automatically include signature confirmation on items over $750. If you are uploading your own return shipping label, be sure to include signature confirmation for items over $750.
Return Merchandise Authorization Numbers
- When should I use Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) numbers?
Many large businesses use RMAs as part of their business operations to track and process large volumes of returns. We do not recommend using RMAs unless your business requires it.
- How do I add RMA numbers?
First, click the RMA box that appears in your return preferences to tell eBay that you need to include an RMA on your return shipping labels. Then, after you’ve received a return request, you’ll be prompted to add your RMA number when you create a return shipping label. When the buyer prints your label, the RMA number will appear on the label.
- Can I use RMAs when I’ve automated some of my preferences?
No. You can only use RMAs in cases where you’re manually approving the returns, as RMA numbers are unique to the item and usually issued on a case-by-case basis.
Replacement & Restocking Fees
- What is a replacement?
A replacement can be offered to buyers who would rather get a replacement item instead of a return when there’s a problem with the original. Replacements are defined as exchanging one item for the same item (same item/size/color/UPC, etc.). For example, a size Medium, blue blouse arrives with a small flaw. When you offer a replacement option in your policy, the buyer has the option to request the replacement Medium, blue blouse be shipped instead of a refund.
- Who should offer replacements?
Sellers who have multiples of the same items for sale can offer replacements. Some conditions apply. Learn more
- How does a buyer initiate a replacement?
The buyer initiates a replacement by choosing the appropriate topic from the More Actions drop-down menu next to the transaction in their purchased items summary.
If you offer replacements, the buyer will also have the option for buyers to choose either a refund or a replacement. If you don't offer replacements, the buyer only sees the refund option.
Buyers provide details about the return request and select if they want a refund or a replacement.
- What happens if I am out of stock of an item and the buyer wants a replacement?
If you sell multiple identical items in a single, fixed-price listing format with Good ‘Til Cancelled as the listing duration, you can select the out-of-stock option in My eBay > Site Preferences to help manage the visibility of your listing. If you offer replacements and the buyer requests a replacement for an item that is out of stock but still visible, simply offer the seller a refund instead. You won’t receive a defect for the request.
- How do I handle buyer requests for exchanges?
Exchanges (when one item is returned in exchange for a different item) are currently not handled through the eBay returns process. If you would like to offer an exchange instead of a return or replacement, use the “communicate with the buyer” feature, which allows the communication to be visible to eBay in case of a problem. Some sellers who don't want to manually handle an exchange will ask the buyer to return the item and give a refund through the normal eBay process and request that the buyer re-order the new item.
- What's changing with restocking fees?
Restocking fees will be offered to all sellers inside a structured pull-down menu located in your return policy. When you select the restocking fee, it will show on your item page, and be automatically deducted from the refund when the buyer chooses the following return reasons:
- Doesn’t fit
- Changed Mind
- Found a better price
- Just didn't like it'n- Ordered by mistake
- What do I need to do to have a restocking fee automatically deducted from the buyer’s refund?
Starting in late October, you’ll be able to add restocking fees using a new pull down menu found in your return policy when creating a new listing or updating an existing listing. You should no longer use the ‘free-form’ field for restocking fees after the pull-down list becomes available. If you have Good ‘Til Cancelled listings with restocking fees, you’ll need to edit your listings using the eBay Bulk Editing and Relist Tool to benefit from the automatic refund deduction.
Updates to Standards and Protections
- When will a return no longer result in a defect?
Starting in February 2016, sellers will only receive a returns-related defect if eBay has to help resolve a returns issue, and the resolution is in favor of the buyer. The buyer’s reason for returning an item will no longer count as a defect as long as you successfully resolve a return request with the buyer without asking eBay for help.
- When should I ask eBay to help after the sale?
Always try to work out all issues with your buyer. If you cannot resolve the issue, ask eBay to step in and help. If eBay finds on behalf of the buyer, you could receive a defect.
- Can I dispute paying for return shipping if I feel a buyer is misusing returns?
You can ask eBay to step in and help if you feel the buyer has misrepresented the reason for the return. eBay will review your request and take appropriate action. Remember, when you ask eBay to step in and help without successfully resolving the issue directly with your buyer and eBay finds on behalf of the buyer, it will result in a defect.
- What happens if I can’t resolve an issue with my buyer but they don’t ask eBay for help?
As long as neither you nor your buyer asks eBay to intervene, the return will time out after 30 days and there will be no impact to your seller standing.
- How will the new “report a problem with the buyer” feature work?
Starting in mid-September, if you want to resolve an issue with your buyer during a return—but you feel a buyer is taking advantage of your return policy—you have the additional option to anonymously report the buyer to eBay. eBay will begin to use this data to help identify bad buying behavior across our marketplace while enabling eBay to help protect sellers against buyers who repeatedly misuse the eBay marketplace. To report a problem with the buyer, simply click on the "report a problem with a buyer" link provided when your return is closed. Choose the description that matches your situation then click "submit".
Click “Need to report a problem with the buyer” when you want to inform eBay of misuse after you’ve resolved the return request with the buyer.
- What is the difference between asking eBay for help and reporting a buyer?
You should ask eBay for help only if you cannot resolve an issue without eBay’s assistance, as it could result in a defect if eBay resolves the issue on behalf of the buyer.
Alternatively, reporting a problem with a buyer lets eBay know that you’ve successfully resolved an issue with the buyer without assistance, yet you feel the buyer has misused the process. By clicking on “Need to report a problem with the buyer”, you privately alert eBay to the situation without any consequence to your seller standing. When you let us know about it problem, it allows us to continually grow our database and helps us maintain a safe, trusted marketplace for all sellers to do business.
- How do the new return reason codes help protect me?
To help prevent sellers from paying return shipping costs, eBay has updated the return reason codes to better communicate the buyer’s reason for returning the item. For example, prior to this change a buyer might have chosen “item didn’t match the listing” as a reason when they just didn’t like it after it was delivered. While we know that a buyer may still choose the wrong reason for return we believe the updated descriptions allow more relevant options for buyers to choose the correct reason—which may allow you to reduce the instances where you’re required to pay for return shipping cost.
Reason for Return Responsibility for return shipping Doesn’t fit (for example: clothing) Per Seller’s return policy Changed mind Per Seller’s return policy Found a better price Per Seller’s return policy Just didn’t like it Per Seller’s return policy Ordered by mistake NEW Per Seller’s return policy Doesn’t work or defective Seller Doesn’t match description or photos* Seller Wrong item sent* Seller Missing parts or accessories* Seller Arrived damaged* Seller Doesn’t seem authentic Seller
*Considered a not-as-described reason for return. In this case, sellers are required to pay for return shipping
- What should I do if there is a problem with the item condition after the buyer sends it back? Will attaching photos help resolve issues?
Remember, you’re protected through the item condition policy — providing the condition you shipped it in (e.g. “New with tags”) matches how it was received by the buyer. If your buyer requests a return and you’d like to communicate with the buyer about an issue, contact the buyer immediately and ask them to go to their “purchased items” page and upload photos detailing the item’s condition. All buyers and sellers can each upload up to 10 images to the return (PNG, JPEG, BMP or GIF, up to a maximum file size of 5MB) which can help facilitate conversation and resolve the issue—sometimes preventing a return from being processed. You can add photos until the return is closed, where they will permanently remain with the file, visible to you and your buyer.
If you can’t resolve a returns issue yourself, you can ask eBay for help by clicking on the link in My eBay. Customer Service will review the issue, including the buyer’s return history. If we determine a buyer has misused the returns process, the buyer may be subject to a range of actions, including limits on buying and selling privileges and account suspension.
Other Returns Related Questions
- My buyer started a return but never sent the item back to me. What should I do?
If the buyer does not send the item back, the return will time out and you are not required to refund the buyer. Your seller standing will not be impacted.
- How do I handle returns of multiple items from the same buyer?
If a buyer requests a return for multiple items at once and your preferences are set to manually approve returns, you can approve the request and provide a single return-shipping label to your buyer. Be sure to clearly communicate to your buyer what to do and add the relevant tracking information for all returns.
- What do I do when I receive a cancellation request?
Buyers can submit a cancellation request within 1 hour of paying for an item—as long as you haven’t uploaded tracking or marked the item as “shipped”. You will have 3 business days to accept the cancellation request, so you can check to make sure the item hasn’t shipped before you approve the request. If you don’t do anything after 3 business days, the request will “time out” and close—and the transaction will proceed as normal (with no refund given). Buyers who wish to cancel an order more than 1 hour after the transaction can contact the seller directly. The seller can then choose whether or not to cancel the order.
- Can I offer a partial refund?
Yes. You may choose to send a partial refund, but the buyer will keep the item. It’s recommended you work out the details with your seller before completing the partial refund through the returns process.
- Can buyers initiate a single return for more than one item?
No. Unless they were purchased as part of a multi-quantity item, buyers must initiate a return for each item individually.
- How are multi-quantity items handled?
Buyers are able to return multiple quantities of the same item with a single return, but can only initiate one return for each multi-quantity item purchase. For example, if the buyer initiates a return for 3 of 10 shirts purchased as a multi-quantity item, they will not be able to initiate a return for the remaining 7 shirts at a later date.