Alan Tessier has bought and sold items on eBay for two decades, but he had never run into issues like the ones he faced with his most recent sale, which left him more than $1,000 poorer.
The Ottawa resident sold his Canon 90D camera in late February and shipped it to the buyer, who purchased it through the eBay marketplace. When the camera arrived, that person changed their mind and didn't want it anymore.
Tessier said he's been involved in 112 transactions on eBay, both as a buyer and seller and felt "safe" using the site. This transaction was a different story.
The person in London, Ont., who bought the camera shared pictures with Tessier showing the camera was dirty, not the "pristine" condition he'd mailed it in.
Ebay ruled the buyer had a valid claim and issued a refund. Tessier said he agreed to have the company buy a pre-paid return shipping label. He also showed CBC a March statement balance from eBay where he was charged $21.20 Cdn for shipping labels.
But the label the company provided was for the United States Postal Service, according to Tessier, which didn't help with mailing something within Ontario.
"Apparently because that didn't work they kind of just threw up their arms," he said.
Tessier says his camera was never returned. He did receive $160 from eBay, but that was nowhere near the value of the camera. After three months of frustration, he approached CBC.
On June 6 after CBC contacted eBay about the situation, Tessier said he received an email from the company stating they paid him $985, the remaining sum he was owed.
Ebay spoke with the seller and was able to "resolve the issue amicably," a spokesperson stated in an email to CBC that same day.
WATCH | After months-long fight, eBay refunds seller after buyer absconds with camera
Tessier said the process took frustrating months of calls and emails. Consumer advocate Daniel Tsai says this is a cautionary tale for anyone looking to sell through online platforms.
"To me this a situation of seller beware," said Tsai, a Toronto-based business lawyer. "In this case, the seller's been left holding the bag."
EBay's spokesperson said the company takes complaints seriously and investigates them. People who buy and sell on the site are protected by "policies, transaction monitoring and data systems," according to its statement.
After looking over eBay's policies, Tsai had a different take.
"Contractually speaking there's not much there for the seller to do because eBay's left it so ambiguous and hasn't given them any protections in the contract," he said.
That leaves the seller with little recourse except to go through a "very lengthy, expensive and stressful process of small claims court," while the buyer keeps their property and a refund, the lawyer said.
If this happened to a seller like Tessier who was out a "significant" amount of money, "it's probably happening to other people," Tsai added.
Watch out for scams and 'jerks'
Tessier said he kept trying to contact the buyer because, as he said: "It's $1,125. I mean if it was a pair of shoes for $30 you'd say live and learn."
All of his followup emails bounced back as "undeliverable."
Tessier, a business analyst by trade, suggests eBay use an easy-to-find link for return shipping labels. He also wants sellers to "read everything and make sure who's responsible to pay for what."
Tsai echoed Tessier's sentiment.
"Really eBay should step up and protect these sellers as much as they are protecting the buyers," he said.
"Sellers have to be that much more mindful and conscious of protecting themselves from potential scams or buyers who are just being jerks."