Where previously an eBay seller could state to customers that they will not accept returns (unless the item does not match its description as covered by eBay’s Money Back Guarantee), the new laws mean that they will have no choice but to offer the option. The buyer is also well within their rights to request a repair at the cost of the seller, if this is considered a reasonable course of action. This in itself presents something of a complication for sellers, who may need to send items away to their original manufacturers - this can be a long-winded process and the expense of doing so may swallow up profit.
New legal support for buyers
While eBay of course has its Resolution Centre to settle disputes over transactions and refunds, UK consumers are also entitled to use an external and independent service called ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’ (ADR), before moving forward to court proceedings if necessary. This service is free for all consumers to use, but traders will have to pay fees.
The service can take the form of a more informal approach such as mediation to reach an agreement, or buyers and sellers can submit written evidence to an arbitrator for review, however their decision is legally binding and cannot be appealed in court.
Although few sales will end in ADR except for in extreme circumstances, the possible financial impact of such a situation is a cause for concern for sole traders and smaller eBay shop-holders if they must shoulder the cost.
Good news in the long run?
Ultimately, the Act has been designed to raise standards and ensure consumers feel supported in their rights no matter where they are buying from. As Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson puts it: ‘Well-informed, confident consumers are vital for driving continued growth and building a stronger economy.’
While there will be some traders with reservations about the impact the Consumer Rights Act 2015 could have, it’s worth considering that Swinson may be right - confident customers who can trust that they have the law to fall back on if something goes wrong will of course be more likely to shop through mediums like eBay, where they might previously have been put off by a ‘no returns’ policy.
To find out more about what our returns handling services at James and James Fulfilment can do for your business, click here.