Seller Scams and Dodgy Deals

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Sellers are scamming buyers more and more lately.  So, I decided to write one of these guides (my first) to see if I cant impart some of my experiences to other buyers in the hope they can avoid some of the scams and dodgy sellers I have been forced to deal with over my many years on this site.

Here are probably the most common, and costly, scams I see running on eBay currently.

1/ Inflated P+P costs

I do a search, wanting a cheap webcam, and I get a list of webcams that have a Buy It Now of just £1.99!!!  WOW!!  But hang on, the P+P on the item is £14.01, yet its only a webcam and item is shown as "In UK".  Hmmm.  Not making much sense.  When I look at the sellers Other Items, every single webcam they sell, including the Top-Of-The-Line one, is £1.99 Buy It Now.  But the P+P costs range from £10 up to £40.  Yet they all come from the same place, and at worst p+p should be around £5. 
The scam?
If you look at it this way.  If, by chance, the item is faulty, the seller will only refund you the AUCTION cost of the item, and not the P+P.  Should it be faulty, they only owe you £1.99 and you have to send it back at your own cost to get your £1.99 while the seller sits there with all your P+P money in his pocket. 
E.G You win a £1.99 auction, plus £40.01 P+P, so you pay out £42.00 for a £50 webcam (still a good deal).  It arrives faulty, you send it back costing you £5 P+P, you get a refund for JUST £1.99.   This also avoids eBay auction costs as the FVF (Final Value Fee) the seller pays is based only on the auction price.  Seller wins every way.

2/ Hidden Costs

How about the digital camera my missus has got her eye on.  £190 in the shops, £170 at online retailers.  Check eBay, find a seller letting them go for £109.00 Buy It Now.  Check listing, and item is new, unused, not refurb etc.  Sounds good.  Item location?  Hong Kong.  Ouch.  Postage costs, £40.00 !!  Well, I suppose thats quite accurate (FedEx quote £42).  Well that makes item £150 now, but still cheaper than online shops.  Until you add in customs charges of around £22 on an item of that value.  So now your paying the same as online retailer, but your getting a non-UK spec item.  Seller neglects to mention THAT part in the listing!  Also, this is hearsay now, Customs are alleged to "guess" the value of an item if it is not declared.  So you could get stung for a lot more if they guess wrongly!
The scam?
The seller is importing goods without paying Import Duty, because you get lumbered with that at your end.  Also, they are selling non-UK spec goods (which are invariably sold much much cheaper abroad, the "great UK rip off") for usually close to UK prices, and saving themselves the VAT at the same time.  And the buyer soaks up all the costs of getting the item over as well!  How can a seller lose!

3/ Unable to supply

The latest one I have been seeing a lot of recently.  Sellers listing items from a shop based business they run.  They have 20 of a certain item on the shelf, so they list 20 items on eBay.  They dont take them off the shelf of the shop, so should you be the highest bidder, you may not get the item anyway if they sell it at the shop.  But they wont refund you, after all they will still supply your item.  Just it wont be until they get their next delivery from supplier, which might be in the next week or so. 
The scam?
They are selling items they dont actually have the stock to supply.  The buyer is the one left hanging while the seller has your money.  Not good if its a birthday present I can tell you!

4/ Misleading descriptions

Another one I have seen a lot recently is sellers mis-representing items.  A seller I came across had a long list of items listed as "NEW", in heading, title, item description the lot, all stated item to be "NEW".  Yet if you read the listing (which was about 6 pages long) somewhere buried in the small print was a single sentence that stated "Item is refurbished, may be missing packaging or accessories, but is classed as "As New" by manufacturer standards" (I missed it twice, thankfully finding it before I hit Buy It Now).  So hang on, the item is actually a refurb, and might be missing bits?  Thats not new, thats about Grade D to me.
The scam?
Sellers tell buyers what they want to hear, and hide the bits that might put a buyer off in the small print at the bottom.  Rather than being transparent and telling you what the item really is, they hide behind smokescreens and jargon.  The only person to lose out is the buyer.  You complain, but the seller simply tells you "It was in the listing" and your screwed.

5/ Returning items. 

Why oh why do the sellers force the buyers to pay return P+P??  At the end of the day, if the item is faulty, damaged etc then surely the seller has a responsibility to refund the buyer for the costs they incur having to send it back?  Not in the world of eBay.  If I buy an item for £30, pay £10 P+P, and the item arrives faulty, it will cost me £10 to send it back, and I get a £30 refund.  So hang on, I am £20 out of pocket for the sellers cock up?  Thats some good customer service there.  Thankfully, some sellers (lushcoolhipchic deserves special mention for SUPERB customer service here) are prepared to understand that buyers are not responsible for things outside their control.  By all means, if I send an item back because I dont like it, then charge me a restocking fee to cover your costs.  But if its your fault, I should not have to pay for it.
The scam?
Sellers are under no pressure to make sure items are fit for purpose prior to sending them out.  After all, it wont cost them a penny.  They have no sense of duty to the customer, I have even received items in the post that have "returned from eBay - faulty" written across the top!  (And yes, it was still faulty when I got it - I lost nearly £15 in P+P costs on that one). They post out whatever comes to hand, leaving the buyers to pick up the cost of the error.

6/ VAT

Sellers will list an item at, say, £59.99.   The item is worth about £70 so it looks like a good deal.  Everything else matches, so you hit the button.  You win.  Yet hidden in the "Payment Instructions" way down at the bottom, it says in just off white, font size 2, letters "VAT at 17.5% will be added to final value".  Damn, that now makes it more than you intended to pay.  But you wont know it until you get to the "Pay Now" bit, by which time your already in a legal contract to purchase the item.  And they even add it to the P+P costs too!!
The scam?
Sellers do there best to hide the VAT will be added bit, because then their item appears cheaper to the average buyer.  As long as they state it somewhere, somehow, in the listing, its OK by eBay standards. 


A lot of sellers are scamming the buyers, be it by inflated P+P costs, hidden charges, selling items they dont have, or simply by mis-representing items.  Buyers are not stupid, but they are not qualified lawyers either.  Quite often sellers use loopholes and inference to mislead or confuse the buyers, and no matter how many times you hit the "Report this item to eBay" button the seller keeps listing items, and keeps selling to unaware buyers. 

All I can hope is that any buyer that reads this guide takes note, and next time they look at any item on eBay they take a long hard look at the sellers terms and listing.
And any seller that reads this maybe feels a little pang of guilt, and starts to be a little more open and honest about their auction.
And who knows, maybe someone from eBay might even decide to make their site a little more transparant, like making sellers tick a box to say VAT included or not, and adjusting the auction price accordingly for the buyer. 

Thanks for reading this far.

R_W_Hogan
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