Author Topic: Buyer Problems, Dispute and Claims - Part 1  (Read 19893 times)


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Buyer Problems, Dispute and Claims - Part 1
« on: May 02, 2009, 08:32:51 PM »
As a buyer, how do I open a claim when there's a problem?

The following are some of the potential problems you may experience:

  • 1. Your item hasn't arrived.
  • 2. Your item has arrived, but it's a fake or pirated copy or cheap rip-off.
  • 3. Your item has arrived, but your seller sent you the wrong item (wrong book, wrong CD, etc.)
  • 4. Your item has arrived, but it's definitely not as described - not working when described as working, red when described as yellow, size 18 when described as size 12, CD edition when described as hardcover, etc.
  • 5. Your item has arrived, but it was damaged in the post.

Problem #1 is the most straightforward issue, so let's deal with that first.

Your item hasn't arrived

The first step is always to contact your seller. Ask politely about when you can expect to receive your parcel, as you've not received it yet and it's been x days since the purchase. Ask nicely for a tracking number as well. (Please bear in mind that if you paid through PayPal via e-cheque - funds sourced from your bank account - you did not make an instant payment, and the seller would have been advised by PayPal not to send the item until the payment had cleared.)

Hopefully your seller will reply within 2 working days with reassuring information - and even better, with a tracking number so that you can call Australia Post and ask about your parcel. Your seller may have done this on your behalf as well.

But whatever happens - do NOT let any soothing tale which the seller tells you prevent you from opening a dispute before the option to do so closes. You have 45 days from the date of purchase. And once you've opened a dispute, you must raise it to a claim within 20 days of opening the dispute.

You can close the dispute or cancel the claim if the item turns up before the claim is resolved.

Opening a dispute through PayPal

If you paid by PayPal, you can open an Item Not Received dispute. Or rather, it's now called Reporting a Problem (within the Resolution Centre). PayPal state that "Generally buyers must wait at least seven days from the date of payment to escalate a dispute for an item not received". One could be forgiven for thinking this means buyers must wait seven days from the date of payment to open a dispute, but disputes have been opened by some buyers mere minutes after the purchase. What PayPal mean, therefore, is that you can open a dispute immediately, but cannot escalate to a claim immediately.

The only reason for opening a dispute immediately would be that virtually as soon as you'd paid, your seller is shown as NARU (that is, became No Longer A Registered User on eBay), or you just click onto the seller's feedback to see an alarming rush of negatives which you hadn't noticed before you paid. However, in general you should give the seller time to send you your goods. Prematurely opening a dispute is unlikely to win you any points.

To open a dispute, head to the Resolution Centre on the PayPal site. You'll need to log in before you can see the page. The link is here.

PayPal give this information on opening a dispute:

To file a dispute on a transaction sent through PayPal, follow these steps:

   1. Log into your PayPal account at
   2. Click on 'Resolution Centre' at the top of the page
   3. You will have the option of:
          * Clicking the “Dispute a Transaction” button, or
          * Clicking the heading “Report a Problem” and then clicking the “Report a Problem” button
   4. On the “Report a Problem” page choose “Item dispute” then click “Continue”
   5. Click the 'Find transaction ID' button to display your transaction history
   6. Find the transaction you wish to dispute and click the “Transaction ID”
   7. Click 'Continue'
   8. Choose the reason you are opening this dispute
   9. Provide additional information then click “Continue” to open your dispute

How long before I should open a dispute? You have up to 45 days from the date of payment to open a Paypal dispute. PayPal will absolutely not allow you to lodge a dispute so much as one second after that period, so make certain you act before that time is up.

Should I wait for the seller to reply in the dispute case? That depends. If you have opened the dispute because the seller's contact details are incorrect, the seller's details have been removed from eBay (by eBay) and/or you have extremely strong reason to believe the item will not be supplied and that this is a fraud, then there is little point in waiting for the seller to reply. Instead, you may want to escalate immediately to a claim if 7 days have already gone by from the date of payment.
If, however, you want to give the seller a chance to respond (perhaps your item has gone missing in the post, etc.), you have UP TO 20 DAYS to let the seller contact you through the Resolution Centre. If you haven't received your item within 20 days of opening a dispute, you must escalate to a claim. PayPal will not do this automatically for you. If you do not escalate to a claim with that 20-day period, PayPal will close your dispute, and you cannot re-open it.

What if the seller promises to refund me as soon as I close the claim? Should I do that? Unfortunately, quite a lot of buyers have fallen for the “Okay, I will refund you once you've closed the dispute/claim” trick. Don't fall for it, because you cannot re-open a dispute or claim once you've closed it. PayPal specifically say, “A closed dispute cannot be reopened or escalated to a PayPal claim” - so be careful not to rely on a promise. Let the seller know the correct procedure is for him to refund you through the original transaction in PayPal, and once that's done, the dispute can be closed.

How can I escalate to a claim? To escalate your dispute to a PayPal claim, follow these steps (PayPal's outline, below):

   1. Log in to your PayPal account at
   2. Click 'Resolution Centre' at the top of the page
   3. Select 'Open cases' in the drop down menu and find the dispute you wish to escalate
   4. Click 'View' in the “Action” column
   5. Under “More options” click 'Escalate this dispute to a PayPal claim'
   6. Complete the 'End Communication and Escalate to a Claim' form
   7. Click the 'Escalate to a Claim' button

How long will it take for me to be refunded? It will almost certainly take a while. Even if the seller hasn't replied in the dispute case, and has provided no evidence of sending your parcel, this could drag on for more than a month. If you believe you've waited for long enough and want your money refunded, you can call PayPal. The link with the information you'll need when talking with a PayPal customer service representative is here. Note the security information generated on that page to help identify you uniquely. PayPal customer service phone number is 1800 073 263. They're available from 6.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. Monday to Saturday AEST. When speaking to the representative, have the transaction ID handy, and state that you feel you've waited long enough for a resolution and refund.

What happens if PayPal notify me by email that the claim has been resolved in my favour, but that they were unable to recover funds from the seller and that my refund is $0.00, or just a partial refund? This is not unusual - but it is wrong. If you purchased through eBay (and assuming that your purchase met the Buyer Protection guidelines), your claim should be processed under Paypal Buyer Protection. PayPal say, "PayPal Buyer Protection is a policy that can provide purchase protection for buyers on eBay. It helps eligible buyers recover funds from eBay sellers who do not deliver the promised goods, or who deliver goods that are significantly not as described in the listing. Eligible buyers may, at PayPal's sole discretion, receive a payment from PayPal or have funds recovered from sellers. The policy applies to transactions on eligible eBay websites and protects payments for most tangible, physical goods that can be posted. Payments for intangibles, services, licences and other access to digital content are not protected."
But sometimes PayPal tell you that your claim was processed through the PayPal Buyer Complaint policy. This is INCORRECT for the majority of eBay purchases, and if it's been applied to your claim when your purchase is actually eligible for the PayPal Buyer Protection policy, you'll have to tell PayPal so. Don't bother emailing - it won't get you anywhere. You will need to phone, and probably to insist (nicely) on speaking to a supervisor. Explain that the wrong policy was applied to your claim, and that you expect a full refund asap.

What's the difference between Buyer Protection Policy and Buyer Complaint Policy, and how do I know which applies to my purchase? The full link on PayPal's website explaining this is here. It's hard to find on the PayPal page - no direct link from the main page, nor does it come up readily when searching for help. There are two major differences between the two policies: firstly, under the Buyer Complaint Policy, a claim for Item Not Arrived can be made, but not for Item Not As Described; and secondly, "If you are eligible under PayPal's Buyer Complaint Policy, PayPal may try to recover your payment from the seller, but recovery of your payment whether in whole or in part is not guaranteed. Your potential recovery is limited only to the amounts that PayPal is able to recover from the seller."

What happens if I still don't receive a refund although my item never arrived? In that case, don't panic! There is a solution - the protection of Australian legislation. You can contact the Financial Ombudsman to initiate a dispute against PayPal (note: the dispute is lodged against PayPal, not the seller). You should have a record of every phone call you have made to PayPal (times, dates, what was said), any emails sent and received, any communication at all between you and PayPal in respect of the claim. The link to open this dispute online is here. It may take a month before your case is resolved, but I have never known of a case where the buyer was NOT refunded (when he deserved a refund) after going to the Ombudsman, if he paid using PayPal.

Isn't there an easier way? If you funded your purchase using a credit card or debit card, yes - there's an easier way. Banks and financial institutions issuing credit cards in Australia are required to be signatories to the EFT Code of Conduct, and this affords you, the buyer, significant protection. If you prefer to deal with your card issuer than with PayPal, that is your choice - you can go to your bank (go in personally, with all the print-outs of emails, transaction details, etc.) and explain that you want to initiate a chargeback. If you're not sure about how this works or what it entails, check with your bank - but to give you some information, here's a link to Westpac's pdf on How to Resolve a Credit Card Dispute.

I hope the above information gives you some helpful ideas about how to protect yourself in the case of purchases not being received.

Further discussions: what to do with items Significantly Not As Described. (Forthcoming)
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