Is eBay safe? Yes, but its safety protections tend to favor buyers over sellers

ebay box on doorstep with ebay packing tape
Before you buy or sell on eBay, make sure you know what protections the site offers.

  • eBay is safe thanks to its Money Back Guarantee, but some experts are critical of the protections in place for sellers on the site.
  • eBay is more than 25 years old and has developed some robust protections for buyers and sellers in its history.
  • You can buy and sell on eBay with confidence by taking advantage of its built-in protections and using other safety precautions.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

As the second online auction site on the internet, eBay is one of the oldest commercial websites still around. It was founded in the fall of 1995, just months after Onsale.com, the first online auction house.

With age often comes maturity and security, but wondering about the safety of using eBay is a valid concern. Both buyers and sellers frequently wonder about the relative safety of using the site.

eBay is relatively safe to use

The good news is that using eBay, particularly as a buyer, is considered safe. The site has implemented a variety of protections over the years, so the most straightforward problems which victimized early eBay customers decades ago, like fraud, are now largely a thing of the past.

Daniel Foley, a cybersecurity manager for Halcyon London International School and director at Assertive Media, said it’s generally a safe bet for buyers. “Defective products, scams, items that arrive ‘not as described,’ and other issues are all covered by eBay’s extensive buyer protection program,” he said.

woman unpacking boxes with laptop and phone
If your eBay order arrives in a condition “not as described,” you can request a refund.

Foley said that if a seller refuses to accept a return request, eBay often resolves the case in the buyer’s favor and compensates for the loss, while account termination, fines, and other restrictions can be imposed on the seller.

But eBay’s protections aren’t as robust for sellers, said Aaron Bossig, a former eBay seller. “I stopped selling on eBay about five years ago because eBay changed its feedback policy to offer no incentive or safety to the seller,” Bossig said. In particular, he noted the company’s change to disallow sellers to leave any negative or neutral feedback for buyers as a reason for his leaving the platform.

eBay’s protections for buyers

Over the last 25 years, eBay has implemented and enhanced its protection for buyers in an effort to make the site feel like a safe retail environment. Today, buyers are amply protected through eBay’s Money Back Guarantee.

The eBay Money Back Guarantee covers most transactions on eBay. Excluded items are specifically identified as exempt and generally fall into categories like motor vehicles and real estate. If there’s a problem with an order, the buyer is eligible to get a full refund from eBay for the full purchase price plus any shipping charges the buyer paid. Most of the time, the buyer also needs to return the unsatisfactory item to the seller.

Moreover, buyers are protected when they do the following:

  • Purchase an eligible item using an eBay-approved payment method, like PayPal.
  • Pay for the item in a single transaction (you can’t make multiple payments).
  • Pay using the “Pay For It” button on the eBay invoice page or by clicking the “Pay Now” button on the eBay item page.

If there’s a problem with an order, buyers can make a claim in the eBay Resolution Center within 30 days of delivery (or eBay’s estimated delivery date).

eBay’s protections for sellers

Sellers are also offered some protection, though many sellers contend it’s not as robust as what eBay offers to buyers.

store owner shipping box using laptop in shop
eBay offers protections for sellers as well as buyers.

Here are the kinds of protections that eBay offers to sellers:

  • Negative feedback given by “abusive” buyers can be challenged and removed. Abusive buyers are individuals who make false claims, demand things not offered in the original listing, misuse messages, bidding, or returns, or who refuse to pay for items they committed to buy.
  • If the buyer damages a product and returns it, the seller can deduct up to 50% of the item’s value from the refund.
  • Sellers can be refunded the listing fee for an item a buyer won the bid for but opted not to purchase.
  • If an item arrives at the buyer late for reasons beyond the seller’s control, eBay can remove negative feedback for the transaction.

As a seller, you should familiarize yourself with the rules and protections that eBay offers to sellers. “Before you sell, ask yourself: ‘Do I know what to do with a non-paying buyer‘? If you answered no, you probably shouldn’t be selling on eBay yet,” said Kevin Parker, a cybersecurity expert and co-founder of vpnAlert.

How to stay safe on eBay

eBay can be a perfectly safe retail and auction environment, but just like any online activity, you need to be careful and take precautions.

Safety tips for eBay buyers

  • Never take a conversation or transaction off the site. You’re only protected by eBay by operating within the site’s virtual borders, so ignore requests from possibly unscrupulous sellers to complete a deal elsewhere.
  • Read the complete product description and item details. Make sure you understand exactly what is being offered, and its actual condition. Beware of misleading phrases or descriptions that imply things without being explicit.
  • Consider the seller’s rating. Every seller has a rating that indicates how many ratings they’ve received and their overall feedback percentage. Sellers with few ratings or low ratings are less trustworthy than sellers with thousands of happy buyers, obviously.

Safety tips for eBay sellers

  • Write a detailed and accurate product description. Be sure to include photos you have taken yourself, showing the item’s current condition.
  • Use PayPal. Tightly integrated into eBay, PayPal makes it easy to demonstrate a full audit trail and transaction history, to ensure payments are complete, and to trace fraudulent buyers.
  • Keep all paperwork and documentation. Be sure to keep shipping receipts so you can prove how and when you shipped the item.

How to delete an eBay listing you’ve posted in 5 simple stepsHow to issue a refund on eBay in 3 different ways, to satisfy your customersHow to get a refund on eBay using the company’s Money Back GuaranteeHow to sell items on eBay by creating an item listing, and start your own marketplace

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This gold-plated Nintendo Wii made for Queen Elizabeth II is selling on eBay, with a $300,000 asking price

Golden Nintendo Wii
The 24-Karat gold Nintendo Wii made for Queen Elizabeth II

  • A 24-Karat gold-plated Nintendo Wii made for Queen Elizabeth is selling on eBay.
  • The Queen never played the console, which was made by a video-game publisher as a publicity stunt.
  • Seller Donny Fillerup says experts have valued it at $1 million, but he has set an asking price of $300,000.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A gold-plated Nintendo Wii games console custom-made for Queen Elizabeth II has gone on sale on eBay for a $300,000 asking price.

THQ, a video game publisher that collapsed in 2013, made the 24-Karat gold-plated console in 2009 and sent it to the Queen as a marketing stunt, the seller, Donny Fillerup, told CNN.

But the Queen’s staff rejected the gift and sent it back, Fillerup said.

THQ folded in 2013 and a private buyer acquired their stock, which included the special-edition Wii.

The 24-Karat gold Nintendo Wii made for Queen Elizabeth II
The 24-Karat gold Nintendo Wii made for Queen Elizabeth II

Fillerup, who collects consoles, bought the special-edition Wii in 2017. He would not reveal how much he paid when asked by CNN.

He said the console was valued at $1 million by experts, but that he was happy with a lower price. Fillerup hopes to buy an apartment with the money from the sale.

“I want to be reasonable with buying a place for myself, and $300,000 (€250,000) is the price that I came up with. I don’t NEED more,” Fillerup said in an interview on his site Console Variations.

“Also, this gives more people the opportunity to buy it.”

Fillerup said in the eBay listing that the console was in working condition.

He told Insider he would provide authentication to any buyer – including the console’s serial number, documentation from a previous owner, and signatures from experts – before they complete the purchase.

“I hope the system goes to a good home. Hopefully a museum, or someone who will take care of it as much as I did,” Fillerup said in the interview with CNN.

The 24-Karat gold Nintendo Wii made for Queen Elizabeth II
The 24-Karat gold Nintendo Wii made for Queen Elizabeth II

Chris Bratt, a video-game journalist and YouTuber, tracked down the console as part of his People Make Games series, in 2019, and found it in the hands of Fillerup.

Fillerup said the console would be the subject of a documentary to be released later this year.

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Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is the latest major tech founder to step down as CEO. Here’s what others are up to now.

jeff bezos
Jeff Bezos poses with a Pikachu doll and drill in 1999.

  • Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is stepping down as the company’s CEO.
  • Bezos was among the few founders of major tech companies still running their “startups.”
  • Here’s what the former founder-CEOs of Google, Microsoft, and other tech giants are up to now.

Jeff Bezos started Amazon in his garage in 1994 as a way to sell books online. In 26 years as its CEO, he transformed the company into a behemoth in ecommerce, web services, logistics, robotics, groceries, AI, media, and more. 

On Tuesday, Bezos said he will step down as CEO in the third quarter of 2021, passing the reins to Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy and taking a backseat as executive chairman of Amazon’s board of directors.

Before the pandemic hit, Bezos had spent several years mostly focused on long-term projects. and said in his letter to employees Tuesday that he plans to shift that focus to “other passions” like his space startup Blue Origin, philanthropies (Day 1 Fund and Earth Fund), and The Washington Post, which he acquired in 2013.

Bezos’ plans track closely with those of other high-profile tech founders who ran, and eventually left, their own startups-turned-tech-giants to pursue pet projects and philanthropic endeavors.

He was also one of the few remaining founder-CEOs of a generation of tech companies born in the past 50 years that played major roles in bringing computers, the internet, ecommerce, and social networking to the masses. That shrinking crowd still includes Facebook CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO and cofounder Jack Dorsey, and Netflix co-CEO and cofounder Reed Hastings.

But Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others have since bid farewell to the founders who had led their companies for years. Here’s what those tech icons are up to now.

Apple cofounder Steve Jobs died in 2011.

Steve Jobs
Apple cofounder Steve Jobs in 1979.

After Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple in 1976, the company had a long line of CEOs. Jobs was eventually ousted after a failed board takeover in 1985, before returning in 1996 with a successful board takeover, eventually transforming the struggling company into the $2.3 trillion giant it is today.

Jobs left Apple in early 2011 as his health deteriorated, turning over the reins to CEO Tim Cook. Jobs died of pancreatic cancer in October 2011.

Wozniak, who left Apple in 1985 but is still technically an employee and is paid $50 per week, has since started multiple companies. Most recently, he launched a cryptocurrency business that helps companies raise money for eco-friendly projects, according to CNBC.

Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates is working on global health initiatives through his philanthropy.

Bill Gates 1998
Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates in 1979.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen cofounded Microsoft in 1975, and by the time Gates stepped down as CEO in 2000, he had helped build the company into such a dominant player in the tech industry that it became the subject of one of the biggest antitrust cases ever.

Gates stayed on the company’s board until March 2020, when he said he would focus full-time on his philanthropic work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates has pledged to give away a majority of his wealth within his lifetime — though he and 75% of signatories of the “Giving Pledge” have actually become wealthier since signing on.

Gates has for years focused on global health and warned about the dangers of pandemics, and the Gates Foundation has poured $1.75 billion into coronavirus-related causes.

 

Google cofounder Larry Page is working on secretive flying-car startups.

Larry Page (L), Co-Founder and President, Products, and Sergey Brin, Co-Founder and President, Technology, at Google's campus headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Google, the popular Internet search engine company, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 29, 2004 to raise as much as $2.72 billion in its long-awaited stock market debut. They founded the company in 1998. (Photo by Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images)
Google cofounder Larry Page in 2003.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google in 1998, and Page led the company until 2001, when Eric Schmidt was brought in as “adult supervision.” But Page stepped back in as CEO in 2011 and eventually became the CEO of its parent company Alphabet in 2015, working mostly on “moonshot” projects and recruiting talented people.

Page and Brin stepped down as Alphabet CEO and President in December 2019, with then-Google CEO Sundar Pichai taking over, though both remain on the board. Page has since focused mostly on his investments in flying-car startups Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk.

eBay founder Pierre Omidyar has invested in media, social impact fintech startups, and a basic income experiment.

GettyImages 799286 F 343440 11: Chairman and founder Pierre Omidyar and CEO Meg Whitman of EBay.com, the online auction service. California, June 15, 1998. (photo by James D. Wilson / Liaison Agency) ***EXCLUSIVE***
eBay founder Pierre Omidyar in 1998.

Pierre Omidyar launched Auction Web, which ultimately became eBay, in 1995. The company eventually brought in Meg Whitman as CEO in 1998, and Omidyar stayed on the company’s board until September 2020.

After leaving day-to-day operations at eBay, Omidyar — a Hawai’i resident — started a local investigative journalism outlet, the Honolulu Civil Beat, and founded First Look Media, a digital journalism company that owns The Intercept. He also launched a $300 million fund to back social impact-focused fintech startups, and has given to a range of philanthropic causes, including basic income and pandemic response.

 

AOL co-founder and CEO Steve Case got into venture capital and philanthropy.

America Online Inc chairman Steve Case talks to reporters at a Tokyo hotel April 14. In Tokyo to announce the launch of AOL's online service in Japan, Case said he expects the Japanese market to become the largest market outside of the United States of AOL's online services. Case declined to comment on market rumours of merger talks with CompuServe Corp, an affiliate of H&R Block Inc. JAPAN ONLINE
AOL co-founder Steve Case in 1997.

America Online, known to most people as AOL, was founded from the ashes of its short-lived predecessor, Control Video Corporation, by Jim Kimsey, Marc Seriff, and Steve Case.

Case ran AOL from 1991 until 2001, when the company completed its — ultimately ill-fated — merger with Time Warner, becoming chairman of the combined company until resigning that position in 2003 amid criticism from investors.

After leaving AOL’s board outright in 2005, Case launched a venture capital firm, Revolution, that has focused on funding startups outside of Silicon Valley. He has also launched a philanthropic foundation and chairs the board of the Smithsonian Institute.

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