Buying on Ebay

Branch out to eBay!


Does the very word ‘eBay’ fill you with fear? Many people think that buying items this way is difficult, or risky, and don’t even consider the on-line auction website when looking to purchase goods.
But it may be time to look again. Not only are there some amazing bargains to be had on goods ranging from clothes to cars to toiletries, but it is an excellent source of tracking down rare or difficult to find goods. Remember an old toy from your childhood that you would love your grandchildren to have? Can’t find it anywhere in the shops? It might well be on eBay, and it is incredibly simple to find out.

A key worry for people buying for the first time on eBay is safety. How will your money be kept safe, what if the goods are faulty, or what if the seller never sends the goods after you have paid? Like any store, you need to be wary about who you give you personal details to. The main problem is that eBay shoppers are not covered by the same consumer protection rules that will usually protect you. The Sale of Goods Act and the Distance Selling Regulations (which would usually apply when you are buying from an online store) do not apply to eBay, as it is essentially an auction house.

There are exceptions: some goods will be listed as Buy It Now, and if you purchase this way rather than via the auction method, then you are entitled to the usual protections. But to bag a bargain, bidding is often the best way. There are plenty of safeguards put in place by eBay themselves, and they work hard to try to prevent on-line fraud. There are also things you can do to look out for your own safety.
It is wise to do your research and look into the person or company who is selling the item. This can easily be done by clicking on the Sellers Details link. This will give you a comprehensive history of what they have sold, and will also show what rating has been attached to them buy previous purchasers. All eBay members, both buyers and sellers, have feedback ratings from other eBay members. These give an overall rating for such things as quality of goods, accuracy of description and reasonableness of postage costs. Look for sellers who have a good rating and read their feedback as left by other buyers.

Some good advice is to start off bidding for a few small cheap items, to get the hang of it, and to gather up some feedback yourself, and when you are more confident – and hopefully starting to enjoy the whole process – graduate on to bigger items.

Sign up to PayPal ( This is the best and safest way to pay for goods on eBay, and it is free to join. It has a secure website and a ‘purchase protection plan’ which provides a degree of cover if, for example, you have paid and never received the goods (it pays to a maximum of £150, so bear this in mind). A side benefit of signing up with PayPal is that many other companies, including charities, are signing up. So, whenever you see the logo you can simply log on and pay from your PayPal account, adding an extra layer of convenience to your internet purchasing activity!

Of course there are occasionally members who slip through the net. There is a complaints process you can go through if you have been badly treated by a seller, and eBay will look into your complaint for you.
Personally I have bought and sold hundreds of items off eBay, ranging from small low cost purchases, to expensive car sales, and I never once had a problem. If you stick to the basic safety rules, satisfy yourself that you have a genuine seller and use a bit of common sense, you will not go far wrong. Genuine eBayers will not want an unhappy customer and bad feedback, and will do what they can to keep you happy, so if you are in any way displeased with your purchase you might be able to negotiate a reasonable deal. It is hard to lose sight of this simple fact in an increasingly cynical world, but the majority of people are not out to rip you off!

So, get on the computer, get to grips with the site, sign up and start searching for those bargains and rare items. You’ll be surprised with what you can find!

By Rosalind Kent – Freelance writer and Retail & Consumer Expert