Ask LH: What Should I Do When An Online Buyer Claims I Sold A Defective Product?

Ask LH: What Should I Do When An Online Buyer Claims I Sold A Defective Product?

Dear Lifehacker, Recently I sold a mobile phone that was is full working order to someone. I tested it prior and all was good. Within a few hours the buyer was claiming there were problems with the phone which I totally refute. First they asked for costs to cover the repair and now they are asking for a full refund, all within 24 hours.

Where do I stand as the seller as I still claim there was nothing wrong with the phone and if it has issues now, they were caused by the buyer after I sold it to them? Thanks, TN

Dear TN,

This is a tough one and an issue that plagues online sellers and buyers. It’s not clear from your note whether it’s a hardware or software issue, nor how the sale was conducted.

It is important to note Australian Consumer Law does not apply to consumer-to-consumer sales.

I think your best course of action is to engage in the selling platform’s dispute resolution process. For example, Ebay has a Dispute Resolution Centre where buyers or sellers can start a process aimed at resolving the issue. This is what Consumer Affairs Victoria suggests.

In the meantime, you could try to offer some assistance. Are the issues hardware or software based? If the problem is software you might be able to direct them through a process of doing a factory reset so they can start over.

If the buyer gets really serious, they could take you to a small claims court. The process and rules for that differ in each Australian state and territory. Good luck.


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  • “which I totally refute” I think maybe you mean ‘totally reject’. To refute is to demonstrate the falsity of a proposition…to reject is to deny an assertion.

  • If it’s eBay, you’re screwed, sadly. Not seller supportive at all. I recently refunded a buyer who claimed some headphones were defective, returned them and they were in perfect working order. So essentially, they changed their mind and started a dispute so I’d be forced to refund them, enforced by eBay/PayPal. In this situation it could be even worse – I have heard horror stories of people buying a phone, claiming it is defective, then returning a broken device they already owned – effectively lumping you with a broken phone and being out of pocket for postage.

  • If sold through something like eBay, stick with whatever their resolution process is. Going outside of that will just get complicated. And whatever the outcome, chalk it up to experience. If it was a private sale, get the phone back, give a refund, move on.
    Buying or selling phones though eBay etc is such a gamble I won’t do it anymore. Too many scammers.

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