An Unhappy Experience On eBay...

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The Purchase

I am building an Asterisk VoIP server and having purchased a number of VoIP phones (through eBay) needed to replace my old 10Mbps hub with an 100Mbps switch to improve VoIP performance and to avoid having all those annoying little power bricks scattered everywhere.

After many failed attempt to win a PoE switch at a price I could afford I finally managed to bag myself a Netgear Prosafe PoE 16 Port Switch for £35.02 plus £12P&P making a total of £47.02.

Ok, so only 8 of the 16 ports support PoE and I was looking to have 10 phones but, to be honest, I could live with that as two of the phones were Cisco and I had Cisco Power Cubes for them.

The Problem

I paid for the item immediately and it arrived several days later. Physically it was undamaged but during testing I discovered one of the PoE ports was defective; data but no PoE.

To be certain of the facts I tested it with five different PoE VoIP phone (two different makes and models) and they all worked perfectly on the other seven PoE ports so I very politely reported the fault to the seller.

The reply, when it came, was equally polite but, sadly, of no help whatsoever, he simply informed me " ...the switch was alright when I had it and I had experienced no problems".

After considering his reply I tested the switch again with the same results so advised him again of the problem. He remained unconcerned saying " I'm sorry you seem to be having issues. I can't explain your issues with port 3...".

He expressed no surprise over the problem I had reported, made no attempt to resolve it to our mutual satisfaction, there was no offer of a refund on return of the switch, just a polite " it's nothing to do with me".

Polite yet, somehow, I couldn't help thinking there was a great big " tough luck" hovering, unsaid, over it all...

My Thoughts

The seller was very clear in his listing (see below) this was an "as new" item and as it is highly unlikely such an electrical fault would develop as a result of shipping (particularly as it was shipped in the manufacturer's original pachaging) I concluded the item must have been defective when it was despatched.

" This auction is for my Netgear Power over Ethernet Switch
This Netgear Prosafe 16 port switch comes boxed as new with PSU and manuals
The exact model number of the switch is FS116PEU"

As far as I could see it I had a number of options;

Ask the Seller for a refund

I could have done this but I didn't:

By now I had lost all confidence in the seller and even if he did refund my money I would have had to return the switch to him at a cost of £12. Allowing for the original P&P which I wouldn't get back meant I would be £22 out of pocket - I would have spent £57 buying and returning the item and only get back £35.

Why should I lose out when I bid on and paid for an item in good faith?

Report him to eBay/PayPal for a refund.

I didn't do this either as most of the above points also apply to getting a refund through PayPal:

At the very best I would be £12 out of pocket (being the return postage) .

At the very worst they could insist on independant testing of the switch at my expense which would, almost certainly, be very expensive - not an option...

Keep the item and hope for the best...

Having eliminated the above, all that was left was to keep the item and hope the fault was specific to port 3 and not systematic of an underlying problem that will eventually render the switch unusable.


Sometimes it just isn't worth the cost of returning an item because you could end up out of pocket.

When it comes down to it you have to get over your initial anger and carefully weigh the pros and cons; the size of the refund versus the cost of returning the item. It is also important to remember that eBay/PayPal can insist on independant testing of the disputed item which can be extremely costly indeed.

Was I conned?

Yes, I am pretty certain I was.

Is the switch still working?

Yes, as of 8th January 2009 it is working fine but with PoE on only seven of the eight PoE ports.

Am I looking for a replacement?
Yes, but my limited budget makes it very unlikely I will find a decent one in my price range.

In conclusion, while most eBay sellers are honest some are not and, to make things worse, you can't tell which is which not even from their feedback. Thankfully the conmen and the scammer are very much in the minority but, beware, Christmas is coming which always encourages them to scuttle out from under their slimy little stones...

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