Is eBay Doing Enough About Unpaid Items?

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


CEO Jamie Iannone has talked a lot in the last year about "virtually eliminating" unpaid items on the platform, but is eBay working fast enough and in the right direction to address seller concerns about not getting paid?

As part of yesterday's Spring Seller Update, eBay announced they are expanding on the immediate payment required for offers pilot program they started last October, however this update still does not address unpaid item issues for auctions.

eBay Spring Seller Update 2022 - Unpaid Items & Page Views
eBay’s Spring 2022 Seller Update is here! First, let’s take a look at unpaid items, listing page views, & messaging.

The original pilot program only applied to buyer initiated best offers, but later this year it will be expanding to other offer scenarios like seller initiated offers to buyers and counter offers. Most importantly, there will be a bundling option to allow for a combined item offer with immediate payment required.

What’s changing?
Later this year, we’ll start asking buyers to pay when they accept a seller's Offer to Buyer or a counter offer.

We’ll also introduce a new feature that will let buyers request a bundled offer on multiple items. These multi-item offers can be completed in one transaction, saving you time and making it easier for buyers to purchase more of your items.

There were a lot of questions about this one in the eBay community.

Question thread: Expanding efforts to reduce unpaid items
Later this year, buyers will be asked to pay when accepting a seller’s Offer to buyer or a counter offer. We’ll also introduce a new feature that lets buyers request a bundled offer on multiple items. This multi-item offer to buyers can be completed in one transaction. Sellers will be able to issue…

One seller had multiple questions and eBay staff provided detailed answers, though the use of words like proposal and broad scope of project indicate this initiative is far from a done deal and could change or evolve before it's released.

While some of these things certainly sound like a step in the right direction, the drawn out and not specific timeframe of "later this year" doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.

For clarity, the sections in bold are the seller's questions, with eBay provided answers underneath.

So, is this right now just a concept at ebay, or do you guys actually know how this will function?

  • We do know how it will work and have a full scale plan with designs in progress. As the scope of this project is (as you'd imagine) very, very broad with a lot of moving pieces, we do not have clearly defined timelines to announce other than what is provided in the Update.

This isn't a buyer initiated offer, right? It is actually a buyer initiated request for the seller to make an offer on multiple items (Presumably with combined shipping). Is that right?

  • Correct. This is a Buyer making a request to the seller on multiple items in a single 'lot'. Seller would then respond if they are interested in the offer. There is no commitment from Buyer or Seller to move forward with the request.

Will the buyer's request be limited to ONLY items that have "Make An Offer" enabled by the seller?

  • No, this will include any item that can be added to the cart (so Fixed Price and Best Offer items can be eligible).

Will the buyer be required to indicate an amount he's willing to pay?

  • Yes, a Buyer would indicate what discount they would like to receive. A Seller can then honor that discount or counter back with a different value.

Will the buyer be required to indicate his preferred shipping method? (And will this method be limited to those available from the seller?)

  • Yes. At the time of the request a Buyer will provide payment and shipping details (similar to the new Best Offer flow). If a Seller accepts the request, the Buyer would be automatically charged.

If the seller sends an offer in response to the request, will the buyer be able to counter offer, or is it "take it or leave it"?

  • Similar to Best Offer, a buyer will have options to counter, accept and reject Bundled Offers

If the buyer accepts the offer, will it be immediate payment required?

  • The current proposal is that payment information will be collected upfront when a Buyer submits a bundled offer, (similar to Best Offers), and charged when accepted by a Seller.

How long will the request be good for?

  • This is not yet decided, but will most likely be 24 or 48 hours.

Another seller asked about the bundling option and if it would be a work around to the lack of a "request total" option in the app (a longstanding pain point for buyers).

Can buyers use this as a work-around to the lack of a "request total" button in the following situations? using the app where the button doesn't exist in the cart [and] on the website when items are on sale and the cart prevents buyers from requesting a total?

  • Yes, exactly. This flow will replace the "Request total" flow and be applicable for more scenarios (including the ones you mention). It will be a great way for Buyers and Sellers to negotiate on multiple items in one bundle.

And more good news for both buyers and sellers - previous issues with buyers having lingering pending authorizations have apparently been resolved.

Please address the very serious flaw with requiring a preauthorization payment for best offers, which has been reported many times and ignored by eBay so far...

  • While there was an issue with that occurring several months ago, this should no longer be the case at all. We do not perform pre-authorization holds. A Buyer's card or PayPal account will be charged only if a Seller accepts. If a Buyer has chosen PayPal, there would be a "pending" order on their account but no money is held (regardless of if the funding source was via credit card or checking account).

Meanwhile over on Twitter, trading card sellers have a lot to say about unpaid auctions. It's a problem that hits categories like this especially hard due to the sometimes volatile nature of the market - by the time the 4 day waiting period to file an unpaid item claim and relist happens, the value of a particular card could change significantly.

It's worth checking out all of the replies on this one - including some spectacular customer service fails from @askeBay. 🤦‍♀️

Some sellers even suggested if eBay can't/won't require immediate payment when the auction ends, they should institute a non-refundable non-payment penalty fee.

Obviously eBay has to balance the buyer experience with seller concerns here, but ultimately if they want to continue to pursue "high value buyers" they're also going to have to be willing to do more to make sellers of those high value items feel secure in selling those items on eBay.

Do you think eBay is doing enough to curb unpaid items on the platform? Should there be more consequences for non-paying buyers? Let us know in the comments below!

eBaySeller Updates

Liz Morton Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of online marketplace sales experience, providing commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify & more at Value Added Resource!