Use Disclaimers in eBay Descriptions for Smooth Transactions

eBay disclaimers
It is ok to sell broken or damaged items on eBay, just disclose the condition in the listing. Getty Images

 Buyer beware is a common term used in retail, but it doesn't fly on eBay. During most disputes, eBay will side with the buyer as their goal is to create a buyer friendly environment. After all, eBay the company and eBay sellers are nothing without buyers to purchase our products. But this doesn't mean sellers can't set their own policies as long as they are in alignment with eBay's Guarantee. Learn how to use disclaimers in listings to prevent buyer confusion, keep customers happy, and ultimately win disputes when they occur.

What is the eBay Guarantee?

The eBay Guarantee states:

Most eBay sales go smoothly, but if there's a problem with a purchase, the eBay Money Back Guarantee ensures that buyers receive the item they ordered or get their money back. 

Buyers can use the eBay Money Back Guarantee when:

  • They don't receive an item
  • They receive an item that doesn't match the listing description

Purchases are covered by the eBay Money Back Guarantee when all of the following are true:

  • An item isn't received or it isn't as described in the listing.

  • A buyer reports that they didn't receive an item or requests a return within the eBay Money Back Guarantee timelines

  • The buyer made the purchase on eBay.com via checkout or an eBay invoice with one of the following payment methods:

    • PayPal

    • PayPal Credit

    • Credit card or debit card

  • The item was paid for in a single payment (including payments with PayPal Credit).​

Disclose Any Item Flaws in Description​​

It is perfectly fine to sell imperfect items on eBay.

Sometimes buyers want an item for parts, to repurpose, to up-cycle, or they don't care about defects or damage. The key to staying within the eBay guidelines is to disclose any flaws in the description and the photos. Describe the item with text as if there are no photos, and take photos as if there is no description.

Some examples of flaws to disclose;

  • Stains
  • Rips, tears​
  • Holes
  • Missing parts
  • Any kind of wear (normal to excessive)
  • Water damage
  • Odors
  • Crayon, marker, pen, or pencil marks
  • Grease pencil marks made by thrift stores
  • Adhesives (glue from price tags, etc.)
  • Cracks, crazing
  • Chips on breakable items like glass, ceramic, pottery, dishes

It is quite possible, even normal, for the buyer not to read the description carefully or look at all the photos. There is only so much sellers can do - we can't force the buyer to read or look at pictures. Unfortunately, buyers get in a hurry. If a buyer files a dispute that an item is not as described, and the seller has disclosed the flaw, eBay will side with the seller. This is often referred to as buyer's remorse. As long as the seller discloses the flaw in both text and writing, and makes it obvious in the listing, eBay will side with the seller.

Disclose Return Policy

eBay sellers can craft their own return policies as long as they are within the scope of what eBay allows. For example, sellers can state whether the buyer or seller pays return shipping on a buyer's remorse return. Most sellers require buyers to pay return shipping. Sellers can offer an exchange or replacement item as part of their return policy.

Sellers can also charge a restocking fee up to 20% of the purchase price of the item. 

Disclose Correct Condition of Item

Make sure your description contains a correct and accurate item condition. The choices are:

  • New with tag
  • New without tag
  • New with defects
  • Pre-Owned

When selling a pre-owned item, always under-grade your item. Words like excellent, like new, very good, and great condition are subjective and what looks excellent to you might not look excellent to a buyer. It is better to classify an item as "good preowned condition," even if it is like new. Let the buyer be pleasantly surprised rather than leave room for error. 

Take your time when describing and photographing your eBay items. It is your job as the seller to accurately describe items with text and photos. Buyers don't like surprises when it comes to item condition and remember, they get the last word with feedback after the transaction.

Updated by Suzanne A. Wells on September 27, 2016.