Camera sale shemozzle puts focus on how eBay policies affect sellers

For weeks Alan Tessier was without the Canon 90D or the $1,125 he sold it for — caught in limbo after the buyer decided it wasn't what they wanted. The purchaser received a refund but Tessier's camera was never returned.

Consumer advocate says eBay's policies are weighted toward company, buyers

Alan Tessier sold a Canon 90D camera on eBay in late February, but the buyer said it wasn't what they wanted and received a refund. Tessier was in limbo for months without the camera or payment, until Monday when eBay sent him his money back. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Alan Tessier has bought and sold items on eBay for two decades but had never run into issues like the ones he faced with his most recent sale, which left him more than $1,000 poorer.

The Ottawa resident sold his Canon 90D camera in late February and shipped it to the buyer, who purchased it through the eBay marketplace. When the camera arrived, that person changed their mind and didn't want it anymore.

The person in London, Ont., who bought the camera shared pictures with Tessier showing the camera was dirty, not the "pristine" condition he'd mailed it in.

Ebay ruled the buyer had a valid claim and issued a refund. 

Tessier said he agreed to have the company buy a pre-paid return shipping label. He also showed CBC a March statement balance from eBay where he was charged $21.20 Cdn for shipping labels.

But the label the company provided was for the United States Postal Service, according to Tessier, which didn't help with mailing something within Ontario.

"Apparently because that didn't work they kind of just threw up their arms," he said.

Alan Tessier holds the camera he purchased after selling his Canon 90D on eBay. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Tessier says his camera was never returned. He did receive $160 from eBay, but that was nowhere near the value of the camera. After three months of frustration, he approached CBC.

On June 6, after CBC contacted eBay about the situation, Tessier said he received an email from the company stating they paid him $985, the remaining sum he was owed.

Ebay spoke with the seller and was able to "resolve the issue amicably," a spokesperson stated in an email to CBC that same day.

WATCH | After months-long fight, eBay refunds seller after buyer absconds with camera: 

After months-long fight, eBay refunds seller after buyer absconds with camera

12 months ago
Duration 1:10
Alan Tessier sold his Canon 90D camera on eBay to a buyer in London, Ont., who promptly complained about its condition and asked for a refund. EBay gave him one — but he never returned the camera, leaving Tessier out more than $1,000.

'Seller beware'

Tessier said he's been involved in 112 transactions on eBay, both as a buyer and seller, and felt "safe" using the site. This transaction was a different story, taking frustrating months of calls and emails.

Consumer advocate Daniel Tsai said this is a cautionary tale for anyone looking to sell through online platforms.

"To me this is a situation of seller beware," said Tsai, a Toronto-based business lawyer. "In this case, the seller's been left holding the bag."

EBay's spokesperson said the company takes complaints seriously and investigates them. People who buy and sell on the site are protected by "policies, transaction monitoring and data systems," according to its statement.

After looking over eBay's policies, Tsai had a different take.

"Contractually speaking there's not much there for the seller to do because eBay's left it so ambiguous and hasn't given them any protections in the contract," he said.

Daniel Tsai is a consumer advocate who teaches business law in Toronto. (Greg Bruce/CBC)

That leaves the seller with little recourse except to go through a "very lengthy, expensive and stressful process of small claims court" while the buyer keeps their property and a refund, the lawyer said.

If this happened to a seller like Tessier who was out a "significant" amount of money, "it's probably happening to other people," Tsai added.

Watch out for scams and 'jerks'

Tessier said he kept trying to contact the buyer because, as he said: "It's $1,125. I mean if it was a pair of shoes for $30 you'd say live and learn."

All of his followup emails bounced back as "undeliverable."

Tessier, a business analyst by trade, suggests eBay use an easy-to-find link for return shipping labels. He also wants sellers to "read everything and make sure who's responsible to pay for what."

Tsai echoed Tessier's sentiment.

"Really eBay should step up and protect these sellers as much as they are protecting the buyers," he said.

"Sellers have to be that much more mindful and conscious of protecting themselves from potential scams or buyers who are just being jerks."


Dan Taekema


Dan Taekema is CBC’s reporter covering Kingston, Ont. and the surrounding area. He’s worked in newsrooms in Chatham, Windsor, Hamilton, Toronto and Ottawa. You can reach him by emailing