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Managing Cancellations, Returns and Other Requests

Returns can happen

Have you ever had to cancel or return an item you bought online? Whether you accidentally ordered the wrong item, or the item didn’t work out, knowing you could return your item probably gave you peace of mind. This is what excellent customer service is all about.

Let’s learn about the different types of requests you can receive on eBay.

We’ll focus on cancellations and how to streamline returns for both you and your buyers, so you can concentrate on delivering a great experience for your buyers that will keep them coming back.

Handling requests from your eBay buyers

Let’s begin by looking at one type of request on eBay: eBay’s Money Back Guarantee. 

If you’ve ever shopped on eBay, you may have noticed our eBay Money-Back Guarantee. This guarantee promises buyers their money back if:


Their item doesn’t arrive


Their item doesn’t match the description


The seller doesn’t honor their return policy

This guarantee helps boost buyer confidence at checkout, which is great for sellers like you because it increases the likelihood that you’ll make a sale. Let’s see how it works!

1. Receive a request

If for some reason something goes wrong with an order, your buyer might reach out to you with a request.

2. Response time

You’ll have 3 business days to remedy the situation, for example by providing a delivery update or offering a return.

3. eBay can help

 If you can’t resolve the issue within 3 days, you or your buyer can ask eBay to step in and help.

Knowledge is power

Fully understanding your responsibilities as a seller and aiming to resolve requests quickly can avoid unpleasant situations and build customer loyalty in the long run.

As a seller, how can you set accurate customer expectations and create a positive buyer experience?

Describe your items accurately

Use your listing title, photos, and description to give buyers a realistic and reliable idea of what they’ll receive when they order your item.

Ship your item on time

And remember to upload the tracking information.

Honor your return policy

Maintain buyer trust by honoring the return policy you set for your listing.

Work with your buyer

Communicate with buyers quickly and professionally to find an appropriate solution together.

Take action

You got it! Once you come to an agreement with your buyer, follow through on it. And if eBay asks you to take specific action, try to do it as quickly as possible.

Understanding returns and cancellations on eBay

Now that you’ve had some practice with requests on eBay and the eBay Money Back Guarantee, let’s move on to returns and cancellations.


Buyers could request a cancellation if they ordered the wrong item or simply changed their mind, as long as the order hasn’t shipped yet. 

You might also want to cancel an order if there is an issue. You’ll learn more about when you can and can’t cancel an order later. 

Change of mind return

A change of mind return is when a buyer:

  • makes a mistake
  • orders the wrong size or color
  • changes their mind and no longer wants the item

In this case, a buyer can return the item according to your return policy. More on that later.

Not as describe return

An item is considered not as described when it:

  • has a problem is damaged in transit
  • has defects not described in the listing
  • is different from what was listed

Even if you don’t accept returns, your buyer may still be able to return your item if it’s eligible under the eBay Money-Back Guarantee.

When can you cancel an order?

Understanding when you should and shouldn’t cancel an order will help you run your business more smoothly on eBay.

A buyer might send you a request to cancel their order because they ordered the wrong item or they don’t need or want it anymore. As long as you haven’t already shipped the item, you can cancel the order.

Although you can cancel the order within your stated handling time, it’s best not to. Once buyers have paid, they can leave feedback, so try not to cancel on them. Keep your inventory up to date on eBay to avoid unwanted cancellation issues.

The buyer may notify you that they entered the wrong address. If you haven’t already shipped your item, you can cancel the order and ask the buyer to repurchase the item with the correct address.

Accepting returns costs time and money but you should do the right thing, especially if the fault is yours. A buyer who has returned an item and gotten a refund from you cannot complain that you did not resolve the situation. The more readily you accept returns, the better your defect rate. More On Returns

Completing a transaction on eBay is usually a smooth process. However, you may occasionally find yourself in a situation where the buyer doesn’t complete the payment. You can cancel an unpaid order 4 days after it was placed. eBay will cancel unpaid orders automatically after 30 days. Use our Resolving unpaid items information to help deal with buyers who haven’t paid.

The importance of free and extended returns

Now that you’ve had some practice with cancellations, let’s move on to returns. Setting a return policy is a great way to build buyer confidence and drive sales. 

We know offering returns is not economical for all items, but we recommend offering at least a 30-day return policy on as many listings as possible. Get more information about managing returns 

Top Tip Offering free returns also grants you additional protections on eBay. When you offer free returns, you’re allowed to deduct up to 50% of a refund if an item is returned, used or damaged. Learn more about partial refunds. 

Setting your return policy

Most buyers will consider your return policy before deciding to purchase from you. Make sure you set a policy that seems attractive and fair to your target buyers.

Returns policies have 3 components:


Whether or not you accept returns


How long your buyers have to return the item


Who pays for the return shipping

Returning an item

Now, let’s see what happens when buyers request a return.

When a buyer initiates a return, you’ll be notified immediately.

Whenever possible, we’ll automatically provide your buyer with a label for you. Otherwise, you may need to upload a return label yourself for your buyer to use.

As soon as your buyer ships the return, you’ll be able to track the package as it travels back to you.

Once you receive your item, you have 2 business days to inspect it and process the appropriate refund.

If the item is damaged, you may be able to issue a partial refund.

Who pays for return shipping?

Who pays for the return shipping depends on your return policy and the type of return your buyer opens.

Take a look at the situations below to find out who pays for the return shipping.

1. You offer free returns

You pay for the return shipping

2. Your buyer reports that the item doesn’t match your listing description 

You pay for the return shipping

3. All other cases 

Your buyer pays for the return shipping

See more details on Setting your returns policy 

Automatic returns

eBay makes it easy for you to automate your returns process.

Here’s how:

  • If you choose to accept returns, eBay will automatically approve and provide a label to your buyer on most returns
  • When we see that your buyer shipped your item back, we’ll automatically process a refund for you 2 business days after the item is delivered back to you
  • You can set up additional automation rules to refund your buyers and allow them to keep an item when certain conditions are met—saving you and your buyer time. Win win!