Is it against eBay guidelines to sell an item you do not possess?
July 14, 2010 11:29 PM   Subscribe

Is it against eBay guidelines to sell an item you do not possess?

I bought a router on eBay (Buy it Now). After I paid, the seller revealed that he did not have the router. Instead, he'd planned to buy it using the money I sent him, and could no longer do so. I would have thought that selling an item you don't have would be considered a bad faith (perhaps even illegal) use of eBay, but I am failing to find any relevant information on their website. Is there a term for this trick? Is it against eBay's rules?
posted by beniamino to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
The term you're looking for is 'fraud'.

Register a complaint through eBay, give negative feedback, dispute the charge with PayPal/your credit card/whatever.
posted by Heretical at 11:38 PM on July 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Against Ebay guidelines, and illegal. Report report report.
posted by smoke at 11:39 PM on July 14, 2010

I should clarify: After a bit of wrangling, I have the money back. I don't think the seller intended to keep the money and not send the item. That would clearly be fraud. Instead, he was trying to make a profit without putting up any funds of his own.
posted by beniamino at 11:45 PM on July 14, 2010

As far as a term... naked short selling, perhaps?
posted by XMLicious at 11:50 PM on July 14, 2010

That's called backorder. It is the way business is done, standard. He may normally carry stock and ran out. As long as he was able to ship product as per the terms you agreed to when purchased its normal and legal. Ebay has lots of resellers.
posted by nogero at 12:27 AM on July 15, 2010

false pretenses or larceny by trick.

(caveat: it's one of these, but bar-cramming mode = completely confused as to when just title passes and when just possession passes. thinking it's probably false pretenses.)
posted by timory at 12:27 AM on July 15, 2010

i'm pretty sure it's not backorder... unless he's a regular merchant of this sort of thing and he normally has it in stock. that doesn't sound like the situation here, although i could be wrong.
posted by timory at 12:29 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Relevant eBay forums threads. It's against the 'product availability' policy, but backorder selling and drop shipping (where the seller forwards the order to someone else, who sends the item) are still common.
posted by holgate at 12:49 AM on July 15, 2010

eBay's policy is covered above, and I have no interest in reading those, but here's wheremy very basic knowledge of contract law (my girlfriend studied contract law last year and I'm an over the shoulder reader) takes me:

You and the seller had a contract the moment he (or eBay as his agent, I guess) accepted your winning bid. Your obligation was to pay the agreed price in a reasonable amount of time; his obligation was to send you the agreed goods in a reasonable amount of time. His failure to do so was a breach of contract. Not sure when property passes in U.S. law, but I would assume it's when the parties intend it to, i.e. after receipt of payment, and upon posting or delivery, unless otherwise stipulated. Either way, he failed to meet his obligation, so you then had a number of options:

1. Sue the seller for breach of contract;
2. Settle; or
3. Vengeance.

He chose to refund the money. You accepted this. No problem!

I am not a lawyer.
posted by doublehappy at 1:09 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone, esp. holgate. That's pretty clear.
posted by beniamino at 2:08 AM on July 15, 2010

It's actually a form of arbitrage.
posted by norm at 7:45 AM on July 15, 2010

The whole 'drop shipping' thing is definitely very prevalent, regardless of what eBay's rules are. The cheap electronic website I frequent (based out of hong kong) explicitly advertises it on their website. People list their products on ebay at a higher price, the seller forwards the purchases to the online retailer once it's paid for, and then the online retailer sends it to the purchaser. The ebay seller's only contribution to the process is to act as middle man; they never possess the product at all.

Why these people buying don't just go straight to the originating website themselves is beyond me.
posted by cgg at 8:08 AM on July 15, 2010

eBay allows presale items. If the seller does not have the item yet, he is supposed to note that it is a presale item and note how long it will take to ship to the buyer once the purchase is made.

See eBays presale policy.

This is very common on eBay, but we only find out when it doesn't work as the seller expected.
posted by reeddavid at 9:07 AM on July 15, 2010

there are a lot of different terms being thrown around on this forum. most are not relevant to the buyers question.

in the buyers question the seller admitted that he planned on purchasing the item after he received the payment.

reeddvaid correctly described this as "presale" and is allowed on ebay but only on condition that the seller clearly indicates on his listing that it is a "presale."

"drop shipping" is where the seller never keep anything in stock. the seller has an ongoing agreement and contract with a third party who ships out the orders when they come in. i don't believe this is against ebays policy.

"backorder" is when you have stock on hand and list it for sale. because of some mistake somewhere, and order came in and you can't fill it (either now, or ever.) this is not against policy, it's simply a mistake and can happen when selling to anyone.

whatever the case is, when you buy something on ebay, you enter into a contract with that person. if they can't keep their end for any reason, you are entitled to your money back.
posted by seatofmypants at 10:08 AM on July 15, 2010

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