The Lowdown on Partial Refunds on eBay

Returns and refunds are an inevitable part of selling on eBay. There are a few different options available to respond to return requests, one which being a partial refund. This post will give you the full lowdown on the what, why and how of partial refunds, as well as some of the more controversial discussions surrounding them.

What is a partial refund?

A partial refund is when a seller returns part of the buyer’s payment for an item. The amount refunded will be less than the original purchase price. The buyer will also keep the item, with no physical return required.

The amount of the partial refund depends on the agreement made between the seller and buyer, based on the specific situation.

When to issue a partial refund

The main purpose of the partial refunds system is to allow sellers to offer a partial refund to buyers in the event that a buyer claims that they have received the wrong item, it arrived damaged or does not match the listing description. The other return options are:

  • Accept return – Buyer sends item back for a full refund, including original shipping cost
  • Full refund – Buyer keeps item but seller refunds purchase price, including original shipping cost
  • Replacement or exchange (for non-managed payment sellers only) – Seller sends a duplicate of the item as a replacement or exchanges the item for a similar one

There is no partial refund for items that are not received.

Sellers who allow returns can also offer a partial refund if a buyer has changed their mind about a purchase (buyers remorse).

Another partial refund scenario is one in which a buyer has returned an item anticipating a full refund, but the item has arrived to the seller in a used or damaged condition. In this situation (specific selling categories only):

  • Sellers who offer free returns can deduct up to 50% of the refund to recover the lost value of the item
  • Sellers who do not offer free returns can deduct 10% or 20% of the refund but only when the item was returned for reasons of buyers remorse

This rest of this article will be focused on the issuance of partial refunds as a response to a buyer’s return request (the first and second examples given above).

Why would a seller offer a partial refund?

A partial refund is a form of compromise for both buyer and seller. Think of it as a discount from the original sale price.

  • For the buyer, receiving a damaged or ‘incorrect’ item is a disappointment. Returning the item for an exchange or full refund is a further inconvenience
  • For the seller, the return/refund process can be a drain on time, resources and profits. It can also be risky, with the item potentially becoming damaged or lost in transit on its journey back

In the instance of an item having a minor physical flaw that does not impact on usability (such as a small scratch), a partial refund may satisfy the buyer and prevent a full refund from being required.

A partial refund may also be a suitable solution when a buyer purchases the wrong item (color, size, style) but would still like to keep it.

Another common partial refund scenario would be one in which a seller accidently sends the wrong item but the buyer has indicated that they may be content with the delivered product instead.

Offering a partial refund isn’t the right solution for every return request. It should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

How to offer a partial refund on eBay

Sellers can only offer a partial refund once. The buyer has the choice to accept or reject the partial refund offer.

To offer a partial refund to an eBay buyer:

  • Go to the Returns dashboard
  • Click View return details beside the item in question
  • Select Offer a partial refund and then Continue
  • Enter the amount to offer the buyer
  • Add a message (optional)
  • Click Send offer

Sellers using managed payments can issue eBay partial refunds from Seller Hub.

It is a good idea to discuss the possibility of a partial refund directly with the buyer first, before issuing one. Be sure to keep all communication on eBay.

The problem with partial refunds

The partial refund system has attracted criticism with the eBay selling community. Some of the most common points of contention are:

  • Ineligibility for Final Value Fee credits. Sellers who issue partial refunds are not eligible to apply for a Final Value Fee credit, as they would otherwise be after issuing a full refund
  • Scam potential. Some sellers have accused unscrupulous buyers of using the partial refunds system to their advantage, by reporting non-existent item flaws to receive some form of payment back
  • Managed payments issues. The partial refunds system does not seem to work seamlessly for sellers who have already transitioned to managed payments, with intermittent technical errors
  • Risk of negative feedback, even with partial refund. Buyers are still able to leave negative feedback for the transaction, even if a partial refund was offered and accepted as a resolution.
  • Reinforcement of eBay’s buyer-focused agenda. eBay encourages sellers to provide a hassle free buying experience, with partial refunds being another method to placate buyers at the expense of sellers

Experienced sellers, what do you think about the partial refunds system? Is it an option you use regularly and if so, why? Share your thoughts in the comments below!