How to Open an Unpaid Item Case on eBay

By Marsha Collier

If closing a successful auction is the thrill of victory, finding out that your buyer is a nonpaying bidder is the agony of defeat. Adding insult to injury, eBay still charges you a Final Value Fee, even if the high bidder never sends you a cent. But you can do something about it. You may get a Final Value Fee credit.

To qualify for a Final Value Fee credit, you must prove to eBay that one of the following events occurred:

  • The winning buyer never responded to invoices or reminders.
  • The winning buyer backed out of the sale.
  • The winning buyer’s payment did not clear or was never received.
  • The winning buyer returned the item to you, and you refunded the payment.

If both you and the buyer decide that it’s okay not to go through with the transaction, that’s okay with eBay, too. eBay will allow you to get back your Final Value Fee by going through the Resolution Center process. You’ll find an option that will absolve the buyer of any wrongdoing with eBay’s unpaid-item police.

The instant you open a case, eBay shoots off an email to the buyer of your item (copying you on the email) and warns the eBay user of his or her nonpaying status.

There are two ways to handle this situation. You can open a case manually through the Resolution Center or use eBay’s automated Unpaid Item Assistant.

The Unpaid Item Assistant will open and close cases for you. Once the assistant opens a case, the buyer has four days to make payment. If the buyer pays, the case is closed. If the buyer doesn’t pay, the case is automatically closed and you get a Final Value Fee credit.

To use the Unpaid Item Assistant, you’ll need to opt in from your My eBay page:

  1. Move your mouse pointer over the Account tab.
  2. Click the Site Preferences link on the drop-down menu that appears.
  3. Scroll down the page to the Unpaid Item Assistant heading.
  4. Click the Show link (and then Edit if it appears) to the right of the heading, and then click Edit. This page will open.
    Unpaid Item Assistant
    Setting up the automated Unpaid Item Assistant.
  5. Click the radio button next to Yes I want Unpaid Item Assistant to open and close cases on my behalf to indicate you want cases opened automatically. A drop-down menu appears.
  6. Select a number of days that you want to allow your buyer to pay for the item before closing a case on the transaction.
  7. Opt in to receive emails from eBay when a case opens or closes by the system. At this point you can approve other options like instant relisting of the item and excluding certain buyers from this rule. Once you’ve read and approved the options, scroll down and follow the next step.
  8. Click the Save button.

If you want to do this manually, and at least 48 hours — no more than 32 days — have elapsed since the end of the listing, you can apply for a Full Final Value Fee credit. First, however, you must file an Unpaid Item Alert:

  1. Go to your My eBay Sold view. Find the transaction in question on the list of sold items.
  2. Click the drop-down menu in the Actions column of the listing and then choose Resolution Center. You’re taken to the Resolution Center.
  3. Select the I Sold an Item and Haven’t Received My Payment Yet option and click Continue.
  4. Sign in to your account and enter your User ID and password. The Report an Unpaid Item Case form appears.
  5. Type the item number of the listing in question (if it’s not already there), and then click the Continue button.
  6. You’ll be asked to select an issue from a drop-down menu that applies to your situation. After you do, click Continue.
  7. Review everything you’ve entered to be sure that it’s correct, and then click Continue. If you and the buyer mutually agreed not to complete the transaction, when you click Continue, you see the Final Value Fee Credit Request page.

You need to wait at least two days after the listing ends to file a case and then another four days before you can apply for a Final Value Fee credit. It’s probably jumping the gun to label someone a nonpaying bidder after only two days — try to contact the bidder again unless the bidder sends you a message about backing out (or you have good cause to believe that you have a deadbeat on your hands). To close the case and receive your Final Value Fee credit, do the following:

  1. On your My eBay page, hover your cursor over the Account tab. When the drop-down menu appears, choose Resolution Center. You’re taken to the Resolution Center.
  2. Under the Your Cases heading, find the transaction in question.
  3. Click the View Dispute link under the status column. You’re now in the area where you may respond to any comments the buyer has left regarding why he or she hasn’t yet paid for your item.
  4. Enter your response (if any) to the buyer in the messages area and click Submit Response, or to get your Final Value Fee refund, click Close Dispute.
  5. Click the Close Dispute button on the bottom of the page. You’re taken to the Credit Request Process Completed page, which confirms that your refund is being processed by eBay.

Anyone caught applying for a refund on a successful item transaction can be suspended or something worse — after all, such an action is a clear-cut case of fraud.