A seemingly small change to the eBay View Item Page could spell serious legal and compliance trouble for sellers in Germany.
A German law firm first raised concerns on January 5, 2024 when they noticed eBay had moved important legally required cancellation terms from the main part of the View Item Page to a separate tab where shipping, payment and return policies are typically posted (translation by Google).
In the last few days, eBay.de has made technical changes to the display of the offer pages. As a result, the dealer's cancellation policy is unfortunately no longer displayed openly on the item page, but is only hidden under the "Shipping and payment" tab, which must be clicked on beforehand.
What is it about?
For retailers who sell to consumers over the Internet, it is extremely important that they correctly inform consumers about the existing right of withdrawal, even before the online order is completed.
This is done through a cancellation policy, which must be presented to the customer online no later than the time at which the consumer submits his contractual declaration.
The cancellation policy must be presented in a clear and understandable manner. It is not necessary to tick off the cancellation policy in a checkbox. However, the cancellation policy may not just be hidden somewhere on the website.
If no (correct) cancellation policy is presented or if it is hidden in such a way that the consumer cannot reasonably take notice of it, then this is problematic..
...What does eBay do?
In the last few days, eBay.de has significantly changed the way the cancellation policy is displayed on the item pages.
Previously, the cancellation policy was displayed in a transparent manner directly below the eBay seller's legal notice and general terms and conditions by opening the cancellation policy when you clicked on the “Full cancellation policy”.
eBay.de has now removed the cancellation policy from the display of the item detail page or moved the cancellation policy to the “Shipping and Payment” tab, the content of which only appears when the site visitor actively clicks on this tab.
Where is the problem?
The problem with the new method of presentation is that, in our view, the consumer is no longer transparently informed of the cancellation policy, including the sample cancellation form, before he submits his contractual declaration.
In particular, the consumer has no reason to suspect or look for the cancellation policy under the “Shipping and Payment” section, since the right of cancellation cannot be thematically located in the area of payment or shipping.
However, as part of the new display method, the cancellation policy can still be accessed by clicking on “More details” under the “Returns” item in the “open” item display below the price.
However, in our opinion, this link is also too opaque, especially since this reference to the cancellation policy is under the name “returns”, but the consumer will not suspect a cancellation policy under the name “returns”.
From a legal perspective, the new representation is more than unfortunate.
Dealers who sell on eBay.de should therefore point out that the cancellation policy can be accessed in their new “place” due to the new display.
When the law firm first noticed the issue, they said the tab only said "Shipping and Payments" with no mention of returns or cancellations. After reaching out to eBay's legal department, they were informed the name would be change to include returns, but they don't believe this goes far enough.
We contacted eBay's legal department by email on Friday evening.
Fortunately, we received feedback after just a few hours. The change in the placement of the cancellation policy was fundamentally intended, but at the same time the "Shipping and Payment" tab should have been renamed "Shipping, Returns and Payment".
This renaming was not initially done, but after a few hours, following our request, it appears to have been implemented across the board.
However, we do not see the new name of the tab with “Shipping, returns and payment” as a definitely safe way to meet the legal requirements for clear and understandable information about the details of the right of withdrawal.
Because of this, we have suggested renaming the tab on eBay to “Shipping, Cancellation/Returns and Payment”.
This change is especially concerning because it may put sellers even outside of Germany who are unfamiliar with these laws at greater risk of expensive legal action, as shown by a German court ruling last year that determined a UK seller was on the hook for almost £12,000 after an auction was ended early and cancelled.
Until eBay address these concerns more directly, the law firm has suggested sellers who list items on eBay.DE may want to consider additional action in an effort to try to mitigate the legal risks involved.
Workaround #1: Note in the imprint
It remains to be hoped that eBay.de will soon reverse this new way of display.
In the meantime, in order to minimize the risk of warnings, eBay dealers can point out in their imprint on eBay.de that the cancellation policy can now be accessed under the “Shipping and payment” tab.
Workaround #2: Place the link via product information
An attentive reader of the article said that a link to the new location of the cancellation policy could also be achieved by adding a “product note”.
The corresponding information page for the product information and a link to the cancellation policy must be created once. The info page created in this way can then be added to any offer via bundled editing.
This type of presentation almost corresponds to the earlier, legally secure presentation of the cancellation policy, except that the cancellation policy is then linked above instead of below the legal notice as before.
Unfortunately, we currently do not know why eBay.de made this unfortunate change.
We will immediately contact eBay.de's legal department, point out what we believe is the associated legal risk for the dealer and ask that the problem be remedied.
Sellers on Etsy recently experienced a similar issue as the platform removed required seller details from UK and EU stores, leaving sellers exposed to the legal consequences.
After massive seller puchback, Etsy reversed course and added an open-ended text box for sellers to provide any additional business or contact information that may need to be presented in the main listing details to comply with various regulatory and legal requirements.
Hopefully, eBay.DE will act just as quickly to remedy this issue they have created with the cancellation details being moved from the main view of the listing page.