PayPal exposed

I recently won an eBay auction and promptly paid using the preferred PayPal method, which according to eBay is “The fast, easy & safe way to pay“.

Conveniently (for them) eBay also own PayPal and so not only do they earn revenue from the auction listing fees and 5.25% of the final value, but also 3.4% of the payment transaction amount.

I was shocked to later receive an email from eBay informing me that the seller’s trading privileges had been suspended and the listing removed, but they would not share any further information due to “privacy concerns”. So I was left with £216 deducted from my credit card and no item to show for it.

Not to worry I thought, PayPal boast that their “Buyer Protection helps you to buy with confidence; purchases may be covered up to £500, at no additional cost.

The key word there is “may”. Only particular auctions that meet strict eligibility requirements are protected to this value. For standard transactions the most you can hope to claim back via PayPal’s dispute resolution process is £120 minus £15 for what they call an “eBay processing cost” – a paltry £105 in total, no matter how much you paid using their supposedly safe payment method.

Faced with the prospect of being £111 out of pocket, I contacted my credit card company to seek recompense for the full amount via what is called a ‘Chargeback’. I was surprised to discover that a Chargeback can be instigated many weeks or even months after a transaction takes place, so an unscrupulous buyer can attempt to reverse a transaction long after you assume it has completed. It seems to me that PayPal is riddled with loopholes and far from the perceived safe trading environment.

Fortunately my seller eventually came good and refunded the purchase in full, but I was lucky and I doubt that I will consider PayPal for high value purchases in future. BBC’s Watchdog programme has also covered this issue, there is more information and advise on their web site.

Finally, make sure that you pay close attention to the full description of what you are bidding on. One unfortunate buyer has just paid £470 for a photo of a Xbox 360! He failed to read the small print: “This auction is not for a Xbox 360 game system, but instead of picture of one.”

» eBayer pays £470 for photo of Xbox 360

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