The flexibility to customize your returns

New features make handling returns
easier and more efficient than ever

New, simpler returns process for your business and your buyers

Beginning in mid-September, all eBay sellers who choose to offer returns will enjoy a single, customizable returns process, allowing you to manage and respond to different types of return requests promptly and efficiently. As always, you can continue to choose whether or not to offer returns.

What’s changing?

With increased options soon available through your return preferences and policy, you'll be able to customize how you handle returns based on your individual business needs. Virtually automate the entire return process to expedite returns and refunds, or select options to manually approve specific requests such as returns for high-value items or items in certain categories.

Returns
your way

All sellers will soon have access to the new, more flexible features—which means you'll now have the option to customize exactly how you want to handle return requests with as little or as much automation as you and your buyers need.

Your current settings won’t change

If you handled returns manually or use automated approvals, your settings and level of automation will not change. Your settings will only change when you take action to add or update how you want to handle returns through your preferences and policies.

Items not as
described don’t count

What's more, with updates to seller standards starting February 20, 2016, returns for items not as described will no longer immediately count as a defect when you resolve the issue successfully with your buyer.

To customize your returns, go to your return preferences in My eBay

  • Automatically approve some or all return requests

    By customizing your return preferences, you can choose when you want to expedite different types of return requests by instructing eBay to process them automatically. This is done by creating basic or advanced return rules within your return preferences in My eBay.

    For example, if you always accept returns and offer refunds on clothing items that don’t fit, you can now choose to approve those specific requests by creating a basic rule. If you need even deeper customization options—for example, to only automate returns in certain categories or lists—you can do that too using advanced rules. See our best practices and suggestions for customizing and automating how you handle return requests.

  • Issue refunds and enable a buyer to keep the item

    Occasionally, you may want to instruct a buyer to keep an item, but still issue a refund. This is often the case for low-priced items or items that were broken in transit—when it doesn’t make sense to pay for return shipping. With customized refund preferences, you can easily create rules to automatically provide a refund and inform the buyer to keep the item in certain circumstances.

  • Send returns to specific addresses automatically

    If you have multiple return addresses for different item categories or locations of items, you can now customize the address where a returned item should be shipped based on rules you set within your return preferences. See our suggestions for situations when multiple shipping addresses make sense.

Customize your return policy options when you create a new listing

  • Offer a replacement option

    Offering replacements is a great way to provide a positive buying experience when there’s an issue with the original item. You can quickly ship a replacement—and even customize your return policy by setting a rule to allow the buyer to keep the original item in cases where you don’t want it back.

  • Add a restocking fee

    Starting in late October, all sellers who use restocking fees can save time by having fees automatically deducted from certain refunds. For example, if you add a 10% restocking fee from the new drop-down option in your return policy and your buyer decides to return the item because they no longer want it, the fee will automatically be deducted from the total refund issued to your buyer.

New option for including your own return shipping labels

  • Use the shipping label that works best for your business

    If your business has a preferred carrier, you'll now have the additional option to include your own return shipping label and automatically send the tracking information to your buyer starting in mid-September.

Enjoy added protections

Along with new customization features, eBay is adding improved protections to help prevent misuse of the returns process.

  • Report a problem with the buyer without getting a defect

    eBay is adding a new process to report problems with buyers, making it easier for you to privately alert us that the buyer was misusing the process. Launching in mid-September, this action will not impact your seller standing, and will appear after you've successfully completed the return. When you let us know about a problem, it allows us to continually grow our database and helps us maintain a safe, trusted marketplace for all sellers to do business.

  • More accurate return reason descriptions

    Starting in mid-September, buyers will also have new, more specific selections when choosing a reason for a return, which may reduce instances where you are required to pay for return shipping.

  • Returns no longer count as defects when you resolve them

    As part of the new seller standards coming in February 2016, returns for items not as described will no longer count as a defect when you successfully resolve the return request with your buyer. Remember, you'll still be required to pay for return shipping for items not as described, but you may be able to save money by setting your return preferences to tell the buyer to keep the item and send them a refund without shipping the item back if it makes sense for your business.

Follow these best practices to automate & optimize your returns for greater efficiency and savings:

  • Automatically approve all or some return requests

    Consider automatically approving return requests when your policy states that the buyer pays for return shipping. This saves you time handling most returns—so you can focus on selling.

  • Automatically send a refund to the buyer without processing a return

    Create a refund rule to automatically issue a refund but allow your buyer to keep the item when the cost of return shipping may be more than the item's original value, or when the returned item has no value (i.e., it's broken or defective).

  • Allow your buyer to keep the original item and send a replacement

    You can create a rule that automatically allows your buyer to keep the original item and receive a replacement instead of a refund. This return rule makes sense when you have a large inventory of the same item and when the original item was broken during shipping—or when it may be cheaper for you to simply send a replacement rather than process the return.

  • Automatically route return items to specific return locations

    If you have multiple return locations or warehouses where you process returns, you can save time by customizing your return rules to automatically route specific items or categories of items to specific locations—for example, when you want returned small electronics to ship to a single location while electronics accessories are routed to their respective regional warehouse.

  • If you use your own label, ensure the information is readable

    When you choose to use your own return label, be sure to attach a clear, sharp image. A clear image enables eBay to read the barcode information and automatically send tracking to you and to your buyer.

Take action

Here’s what you can do now

  • Familiarize yourself with the returns process.
  • Customize your return preferences after we announce the new features are available in mid-September.
  • Whenever possible, offer a return policy that will attract more shoppers to your listings and close more sales.
  • By the end of September, all sellers will have access to most of the new customization features. You should plan to update your return settings in preparation for holiday selling.

Frequently asked questions

Select multiple topics below to narrow your search.

General

  • Is offering returns still optional for sellers?

    Yes, offering a return policy will remain optional for all sellers. You can offer returns—or not—on any item through your item listing’s return policy. When you do accept returns, be sure to customize your return preferences and return policy to fit your business needs.

    Starting in May 2016, as part of the updates to seller standards, listings from US Top Rated sellers must offer a 30-day money-back return policy to qualify for the Top Rated Plus seal on eBay.com. The same day or one day handling requirement still applies. Note that as of today, Canadian sellers who don't meet these requirements can still become Top Rated on eBay.com and receive the final value fee discount, but will not see the seal on their listings.

  • Do I have to automate my returns process?

    No, you are not required to automate your returns. Starting in mid-September, you will have the option to customize and automate your return process so you can handle most returns quickly and easily. Your current returns process, and your buyers’ return experience, will not change unless you take the action to update or customize it further.

    Screenshot of create return rules

    You can create new basic rules, or update existing rules, through your return preferences in My eBay. You can also handle some or all returns manually by not checking any rules.

  • I already offer returns. What is changing for me?

    eBay will not change your existing policy or preferences. You’ll have the option to completely customize the way you want to handle different types of return requests—including whether you want to continue to handle every return manually or automate some or all parts of the returns process—according to your needs. You’ll also be able to use Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) numbers: an easier, more structured way to handle restocking fees, and enjoy a more generous standards policy which won’t count defects based solely on the buyer’s reason for requesting a return.

  • I don’t offer returns on my items—how does this impact me?

    While eBay encourages sellers to offer great buying and return experiences for online shoppers to achieve a competitive advantage, you may choose not to offer a return policy on your items. This option has not changed. When you do not offer a return policy, the eBay Money Back Guarantee applies, and your seller standard may be affected. You'll be required to pay for return shipping when the buyer chooses the following reasons:

    • It doesn’t work or it’s defective
    • It doesn’t match the description or photos
    • The wrong item was sent
    • There are missing parts or accessories
    • It arrived damaged
    • The item doesn’t seem authentic

    Starting in February 2016, sellers will only receive a returns-related defect if eBay has to step in to resolve a return issue, and the resolution is in favour of the buyer. In other words, the buyer’s reason for returning an item will no longer count as a defect as long as you successfully resolve a return request with the buyer without asking eBay for help.

  • Can I communicate with a buyer after they’ve requested a return?

    Yes, you can communicate with buyers by sending a message at any time following a return request notification. Additionally, all sellers may now customize their return preferences to:

    • Communicate with buyers after each return request
    • Communicate only after certain types of return requests
    • Eliminate buyer communication altogether by automatically accepting all domestic return requests and refunding the buyer.

    The level of customization you choose is completely up to you.

    Screenshot of option to send a message from the return request page

    Choose “send a message” if you’d like to communicate with the buyer before accepting or processing a return.

  • If I receive a return request and want to send a message to the buyer using the option in the returns flow, will this automatically process the return?

    No. If you have not created a rule to automatically approve your return request for this item, sending a message to the buyer does not mean that you are accepting a return request. In fact, unless you’ve set a custom rule to automatically accept returns, a return request is not approved until you “accept a return.”

  • Do I now need to approve a return request or is it automatically approved?

    All return requests will continue to be handled manually, unless you update your return preferences and add custom rules to automatically accept returns.

  • My buyer wants me to handle a return outside of the eBay process. What should I do?

    Always inform buyers to go to their purchased items in My eBay and use the “Request a return” feature. This way, buyers can view and track the status of the return request from start to finish. Additionally, the entire return transaction can be reviewed by eBay in case of an issue where you need us to step in and help.

  • Do I have to pay for return shipping when I offer returns?

    To attract more buyers, you should consider offering free return shipping on your items. However, eBay only requires sellers to pay for return shipping when the buyer requests a return and reason for one of the following reasons which are considered “not as described”:

    • It doesn’t work or is defective
    • It doesn’t match the description or photos
    • The wrong item was sent
    • There are missing parts or accessories
    • It arrived damaged
    • The item doesn’t seem authentic
    Reason for Return   Responsibility for return shipping
    Doesn’t fit (for example: clothing)   Per Seller’s return policy
    Changed mind   Per Seller’s return policy
    Found a better price   Per Seller’s return policy
    Just didn’t like it New Per Seller’s return policy
    Ordered by mistake New Per Seller’s return policy
    Doesn’t work or is defective*   Seller
    Doesn’t match the description or photos*   Seller
    Wrong item sent* New Seller
    Missing parts or accessories*   Seller
    Arrived damaged*   Seller
    Doesn’t seem authentic*   Seller

    *Considered a not-as-described reason for return. In this case, sellers are required to pay for return shipping

Customizing return preferences

  • How do I find out more about what automations are best for my selling style/business?

    For many sellers, setting up basic return rules for price and return reason are usually sufficient to manage returns requests. You may want to consider any exceptions you have when managing returns in your current returns process and how automation can help expedite the returns process for you and your buyer.
    Consider these examples:

    • Create a refund rule to automatically issue a refund and allow the buyer to keep the item —this is great for inexpensive items when paying for return shipping may cost more than the item’s original value.
    • Save time and effort needed to manually approve a return request where the buyer pays for return shipping.
    • If you have multiple warehouses where you process returns, create a rule to automatically route different items to specific locations.

    See our best practices for more helpful hints.

  • What are basic return rules?

    Basic return rules let you choose when you want to automatically approve certain return requests or issue a refund. You can also choose when to automatically issue a refund and inform the buyer to keep the item if you don’t want it back—for example, when an item was broken in shipping.

    Screenshot of creating return rules

    Basic rule options available inside your return preferences.

  • What are advanced return rules?

    Some sellers may want to go beyond the basic return and refund rules and further customize how they want to handle certain types of returns by setting advanced rules. Advanced rules include options to make rules for handling returns within certain categories or lists and the condition of the item.

    For example, advanced rules could be useful for sellers who want to handle returns for clearance items differently from how they handle full price items, or for new items versus used items.

    Screenshot of creating advanced return rules

    Advanced rules: Choose “create your own rule” to further customize how you handle return requests for different types of items.

    Screenshot of creating advanced return rules

    Next, choose the criteria and click “Save and turn on”. You’re finished! You can update and modify your custom rules anytime inside your return preferences.

  • Where do I locate and set my return preferences and policies?

    You can set up your return preferences at My eBay > Site Preferences > Return Preferences. Your return policies can be set up when you create or edit your listing. Here’s how it works:

    Setting
    ‘I want to add/edit
    ________in my returns’

    Return Policy Location
    Click “Review Return Policy”
    when creating or
    updating a listing

    Return Preferences
    Go to My eBay>
    Site Preferences >
    Return Preferences to set rules

    Who pays for return shipping

    Return PolicyClick “Review Return Policy” when creating or updating a listing

     

    Add Replacement options

    Return PolicyClick “Review Return Policy” when creating or updating a listing

     

    Automatically approve a return

     

    Return PreferencesGo to My eBay> Site Preferences > Return Preferences to set rules

    Automatically send a refund and tell buyer to keep the item

     

    Return PreferencesGo to My eBay> Site Preferences > Return Preferences to set rules

    Use of RMA#

     

    Return PreferencesGo to My eBay> Site Preferences > Return Preferences to set rules

    Add Restocking fees

    Return PolicyClick “Review Return Policy” when creating or updating a listing

     
  • If I decide to automate my return process, can I provide my own label for the buyer?

    You may only use the “Upload your own label” option when you’re processing a return manually.

  • What if I sell fragile items often broken in shipping that I don’t want returned, but I want to refund the buyer?

    If you manually approve individual return requests, you can communicate with the buyer and instruct them to keep the item while you issue a refund. Alternatively, you can customize your return preferences to automatically refund and instruct the buyer to keep the item when they've indicated the reason for return is that it was broken in shipping. This expedites the refund for the buyer and allows you to avoid paying for return shipping for a broken item.

  • Can I create a rule that applies only to a single item?

    Yes, you can create and manage the automation rules in your return preferences for a single item, a custom list of items, or by item condition or category using advanced settings.

  • Can I have multiple return rules for different categories of items I list?

    Yes, you may customize up to 500 different combinations of rules in your return preferences based on many different factors, including how to handle returns of items in different categories, item conditions, price and more. For example, you may want to route smartphone returns to one address, but route televisions to another address. Or, you may want to automatically provide a refund and allow the buyer to keep items where the cost of return shipping greatly impacts your profit margin. You may customize as much, or as little, as you like.

Using return shipping labels

  • Can I use my own label if my preferences are set to automatically approve return requests and refund the buyer?

    No. You may only use your own label in cases where you manually approve returns.

  • Do I have to include a tracking number if I provide a label for the buyer?

    You should always include tracking information whenever possible when you ship an item because it allows eBay to help if there is a problem with delivery. If you send the buyer a return shipping label directly, you or the buyer should manually input tracking information.

  • How quickly should I send the buyer a return shipping label when I’m manually approving a return?

    If you're manually handling a return request, you need to send a return shipping label to the buyer within 3 days of the request to avoid the buyer escalating the issue to eBay.

  • What happens if there is no available tracking, and the buyer claims they shipped the item back—but I never received it?

    Because eBay is not able to help sellers locate or recoup items that do not contain tracking through the eBay return process, we strongly recommend you use trackable shipping through the eBay returns flow process to help protect you in case of a delivery issue. If you cannot find resolution directly with the buyer, you can always ask eBay to step in and help.

  • Can I send a return shipping label and tracking information using a third-party API?

    Yes, most APIs now have this functionality.

Replacements and Restocking Fees

  • What is a replacement?

    A replacement can be offered to buyers who would rather get a replacement item instead of a return when there’s a problem with the original. Replacements are defined as exchanging one item for the same item (same size/colour/UPC, etc.). For example, a size medium blue blouse arrives with a small flaw. When you offer a replacement option in your policy, the buyer has the option to request the replacement medium blue blouse be shipped instead of a refund.

  • Who should offer replacements?

    Sellers who have multiples of the same items for sale can offer replacements. Some conditions apply.

  • How does a buyer initiate a replacement?

    The buyer initiates a replacement by choosing the appropriate topic from the "More actions" drop-down menu next to the transaction in their purchased items summary.

    If you offer replacements, the buyer will also have the option for buyers to choose either a refund or a replacement. If you don't offer replacements, the buyer only sees the refund option.

    Image showing the selections available to buyers when they click the actions drop-down menu

    Buyers provide details about the return request and select if they want a refund or a replacement.

  • What happens if I am out of stock of an item and the buyer wants a replacement?

    If you sell multiple identical items in a single, fixed-price listing format with Good ‘Til Cancelled as the listing duration, you can select the out-of-stock option in My eBay > Account > Site Preferences to help manage the visibility of your listing. If you offer replacements and the buyer requests a replacement for an item that is out of stock but still visible, simply offer the seller a refund instead. You won’t receive a defect for the request.

  • How do I handle buyer requests for exchanges?

    Exchanges (when one item is returned in exchange for a different item) are currently not handled through the eBay returns process. If you would like to offer an exchange instead of a return or replacement, use the “Communicate with the buyer” feature, which allows the communication to be visible to eBay in case of a problem. Some sellers who don't want to manually handle an exchange will ask the buyer to return the item and give a refund through the normal eBay process and request that the buyer re-order the new item.

  • What’s changing with restocking fees in October?

    Starting in late October, restocking fees will be offered to all sellers inside a structured pull-down menu located in your return policy. When you select the restocking fee, it will show on your item page, and be automatically deducted from the refund when the buyer chooses the following return reasons:

    • Doesn’t fit
    • Changed mind
    • Found a better price
    • Just didn't like it
    • Ordered by mistake
  • What do I need to do to have a restocking fee automatically deducted from the buyer’s refund?

    Starting in late October, you’ll be able to add restocking fees using a new pull-down menu found in your return policy when creating a new listing or updating an existing listing. You should no longer use the ‘free-form’ field for restocking fees after the pull-down list becomes available.

Updates to standards and protections

  • When will a return no longer result in a defect?

    Starting in February 2016, sellers will only receive a return-related defect if eBay has to help resolve a return issue, and the resolution is in favour of the buyer. The buyer’s reason for returning an item will no longer count as a defect as long as you successfully resolve a return request with the buyer without asking eBay for help.

  • When should I ask eBay to help after the sale?

    Always try to work out all issues with your buyer. If you cannot resolve the issue, ask eBay to step in and help. If eBay's resolution is in the buyer's favour, you could receive a defect.

  • What happens if I can’t resolve an issue with my buyer but they don’t ask eBay for help?

    As long as neither you nor your buyer asks eBay to intervene, the return will time out after 30 days and there will be no impact to your seller standing.

  • How will the new “report a problem with the buyer” feature work?

    Starting in mid-September, if you want to resolve an issue with your buyer during a return—but you feel a buyer is taking advantage of your return policy—you have the additional option to anonymously report the buyer to eBay. eBay will begin to use this data to help identify bad buying behaviour across our marketplace while enabling eBay to help protect sellers against buyers who repeatedly misuse the eBay marketplace. To report a problem with the buyer, simply click on the "Report a problem with a buyer" link provided when your return is closed. Choose the description that matches your situation, then click "Submit".

    Screenshot showing the need to report a problem with the buyer link

    Click “Report a problem with the buyer” when you want to inform eBay of misuse after you’ve resolved the return request with the buyer.

  • What is the difference between asking eBay for help and reporting a buyer?

    You should ask eBay for help only if you cannot resolve an issue without eBay’s assistance, as it could result in a defect if eBay resolves the issue in favour of the buyer.

    Alternatively, reporting a problem with a buyer lets eBay know that you’ve successfully resolved an issue with the buyer without assistance, yet you feel the buyer has misused the process. By clicking on “Report a problem with the buyer”, you privately alert eBay to the situation without any consequence to your seller standing. When you let us know about a problem, it allows us to continually grow our database and helps us maintain a safe, trusted marketplace for all sellers to do business.

  • How do the new return reason codes help protect me?

    To help prevent sellers from paying return shipping costs, eBay has updated the return reason codes to better communicate the buyer’s reason for returning the item. For example, prior to this change, a seller might have chosen “Item didn’t match the listing” as a reason, when they just didn’t like it after it was delivered. While we know that a buyer may still choose the wrong reason for a return, we believe the updated descriptions will provide more relevant options for buyers to choose the correct reason—which may allow you to reduce the instances where you’re required to pay for return shipping cost.

    Reason for Return   Responsibility for return shipping
    Doesn’t fit (for example: clothing)   Per Seller’s return policy
    Changed mind   Per Seller’s return policy
    Found a better price   Per Seller’s return policy
    Just didn’t like it New Per Seller’s return policy
    Ordered by mistake New Per Seller’s return policy
    Doesn’t work or is defective*   Seller
    Doesn’t match the description or photos*   Seller
    Wrong item sent* New Seller
    Missing parts or accessories*   Seller
    Arrived damaged*   Seller
    Doesn’t seem authentic*   Seller

    *Considered a not-as-described reason for return. In this case, sellers are required to pay for return shipping