Can I be sued for giving a refund to abuyer instead of sending the merchandise that they purchased?

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Can I be sued for giving a refund to abuyer instead of sending the merchandise that they purchased?

I listed an item on ebay which was purchased via auction. After sending invoice on the day of purchase, a reminder the following day and a further reminder the day after, the item is still unpaid and I receive a rude response from the buyer. Because I am a new seller he stated that I will receive payment when he determines I am trustworthy enough. The next emails from him were still rude and mostly insults. I was advised by customer support to open an unpaid item case on the 4th day after the item has ended. I did exactly what I was told then got the payment as soon as I opened the case. As a new ebay seller, I do not want to be having any transactions with a buyer who has been very unpleasant during our exchange of emails. Customer support advised me to contact the buyer and for me to suggest to give back a refund, which I have already done. I sent the buyer a kind request only to be replied with him saying that he can take legal action for breach of contract. He even boasted that he takes all fraud to court and that damages paid to him allows him the luxury to pay for holidays. He has a very unpleasant character and I simply do not want to have any dealings with him, which is the reason why I want to give him back the refund. Ideally I really want to give this buyer his money back but worried about the threat. Am I at risk at being taken to court? Or can I simply give a refund and refuse to send the item?

Asked on July 4, 2011 under Business Law, California

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Anyone is always at risk for being taken to court. The issue here is whether he would prevail. If you are in two separate states, he would have to file in your state, where the contract occurred and attempt to win. Here is the issue: was there a breach of contract? In your instance with an online auction site, both the seller and the buyer have certain ethical codes and contract terms they each have to abide by to a) keep doing business and visiting the site and b) to be able to keep purchasing items on the site. If you have all of these reminder emails, it appears this person is just one of those really trouble making people. It appears from my perspective (and dependent upon the ebay bylaws on purchases and sellers' rights when purchases are not made paid for within a certain time) that he breached the contract for sale of a product. You did the proper thing by emailing him and issuing the refund. If he has a problem, he can take it up with ebay but at the same time, you should file a complaint against him and see if there is a process to resolve the matter.


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