Buyer-seller bust-ups and delivery disputes: our guide to online selling platforms

8 min read
June 21, 2023

Whether it’s Vinted, Depop, eBay or Etsy, there is an explosion of buyer-seller sites and reselling platforms, as people look to make some extra cash or get a great deal on second-hand clothing, gadgets, homeware, homemade gifts and other products. 

At Resolver, we’ve been hearing from more and more people who’ve run into problems on such sites. We are sometimes limited in the help we can offer – many of these platforms have their own specific processes and procedures for resolving customer issues and won’t accept contact from customers who choose to use the Resolver tool. 

Unfortunately, we cannot force companies to engage with us and our users. But we still want to be able to offer consumers as much advice and guidance as we can. 

In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common problems that arise and classic buyer-seller disputes. Drawing on real case studies of people reaching out to us, we consider how to best make use of a platform’s internal processes, what recourse you have if they fail and other ways you can protect yourself and your consumer rights. 

Staying savvy when buying or selling online

All selling sites require a basic level of trust on the part of both parties. For buyers, you will need to pay for an item before it is sent – so you make a purchase based on photos, reviews of the seller and the site’s own process for returns and disputes. For sellers, you have to be willing to send your item to a buyer and feel secure that it will arrive safely and that the returns process will be followed properly if they are unsatisfied. 

Perhaps the most common concern for buyers and sellers alike is the breakdown of trust and lack of impartial oversight or intervention if they feel that they have been taken advantage of. 

All buyer-seller sites have their own processes for reporting false advertising, getting a refund, or settling a dispute. These complaints and reporting procedures can work really well most of the time, making it easy to raise a dispute and be protected if something goes wrong. 

However, there are all kinds of complexities, loopholes or blind spots that leave some users in tricky situations. 

Beware of counterfeit goods

Counterfeit goods are fake products of substandard quality that are sold under the name and trademark of another brand without authorization. Counterfeits have always troubled the world of e-commerce. The OECD’s 2019 report shows the extent of this problem – that trade in counterfeit goods has risen to a staggering 3.3% of the global trade. 

We recently heard from someone who had bought a popular model of vacuum cleaner from an eBay seller, only to have it breakdown and be identified by the repair person as a counterfeit. Unfortunately, because this was discovered after the 30-day window for reporting any issues, eBay refused to help them get their money back. Their credit card company also refused to help, as eBay is a third-party site.

You may not be looking to buy a Gucci handbag, but the problem of counterfeit goods is something to be aware of. The danger is far worse than being ripped off. With electronics especially the safety risks posed by counterfeit goods are very serious. So if a price seems too good to be true, be wary – it probably is.

Counterfeiters are able to operate on these sites and then disappear quickly to avoid being reported. This means that the customers they’ve duped can be left unprotected by the normal dispute procedure. 

While our system cannot support complaints for eBay, as they have their own processes, we were able to advise this consumer. If you’ve bought a counterfeit item this becomes a police matter – by getting a crime report, you may be able to get a refund from eBay and other sites as they have a liability to protect their customers from crime conducted on their platform. 

False advertising

Even if a product isn’t fake, it may arrive in poor condition or not be what was expected. We hear from so many consumers about items being radically different from how they were described in the listing. 

All buyer-seller platforms will have a process to raise a dispute if an item is ‘not as described.’ Disappointed buyers will usually have to communicate with the seller directly at first. If a resolution cannot be reached between them, it will be independently reviewed by the site’s dispute team. 

As a buyer, if an item is not as described, you must try and gather as much evidence as you can. Make sure you take photos of the item and its condition as soon as it arrives with you and report the problem immediately.

As a seller, it is so important that you make a clear and transparent listing. If there is any damage, wear or tear or irregularity to an item you’re selling do not try to downplay or hide it. Take photographs of any defects or damage and post them in the listing so that no one can claim they were unaware when they made the purchase.


Returns and refunds

Almost all sites will allow for returns if the buyer is unhappy with the item or simply changes their mind. While this is usually a smooth process, there is potential for things to go badly wrong. We recently heard from someone who’d used Vinted to sell an expensive dress. They sent the item to the buyer and then went on holiday and turned their notifications off. A week later they received an email from Vinted stating that the buyer had cancelled the payment and been refunded. Yet the item hadn’t been sent back.

On many sites, a refund won’t be processed until the buyer shows proof of returning the item they bought. But with Vinted, it turns out, you only have two days after the buyer cancels to request that the item is sent back. Unfortunately for this person, the dress was never sent back and Vinted said that there is nothing they can do.

The moral of this story is to make sure you have thoroughly understood what the returns or refund process is before you sell or buy anything on these platforms. Each site has a different set of rules and procedures for obtaining a refund and ensuring your goods are returned safely.

Had this person known about the two-day window, they wouldn’t have sent such an expensive item right before their holiday when it was harder for them to follow and stay on top of the returns process.

Delivery disputes

An essential aspect of buyer-seller transactions is the delivery of the items themselves. Deliveries will be carried out by other companies and couriers and this can create a whole new set of issues.

In particular, items being lost or damaged in transit can put both buyers and sellers in really tricky positions. It’s easy for someone to blame a delivery company to avoid accountability for the condition of their products, or their own failure to send or return an item in a timely fashion. But at the same time lost, delayed, or damaged packages do happen – so you need to be prepared for this possibility.

As a buyer using these platforms, you are usually well covered by purchase protection or other T&C’s that ensure you’ll be refunded if the item doesn’t arrive – for more on these, check out our guide on deliveries. In general, it’s almost always up to the seller to be responsible for the delivery of their product – if something happens in transit, they are supposed to issue a refund or a replacement.

As a seller, this means that you are responsible for the item until it’s officially delivered – even when the package is not in your possession. Some sites like Depop offer Seller Protection too – so that if something goes wrong with the delivery you will be protected and refunded by the site. However, this is not always the case.

If your package goes missing in transit you’ll have to raise the dispute with the delivery company themselves – which can be a long drawn-out process. Our advice is that you should try to use tracked delivery or make sure you have insurance you can claim should things go wrong with the delivery.

Profile problems

In our recent article on fake reviews, we explored this new problem that is sweeping across the internet, including buyer-seller platforms. A negative review may be completely false, but can have a big impact on other potential buyers or sellers viewing your profile. So for people who rely on these sites as a source of income, this is a serious issue.

Negative feedback can’t always be avoided – and, in fact, you can build your business’ resilience by learning to take it in your stride. However, if a negative review is fake, you must report it so it can be removed by a moderator and protect the integrity of the site.

Almost all of these platforms will have a way of reporting a fake review so it can be removed from your profile. If you’re not sure whether a review is fake or not, check out our helpful guide on how to spot them.


If you have any comments, questions, or experiences of using these sites that you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us at

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