Second-hand platforms and apps: a practical guide
Have you taken advantage of the lockdown to clean out your attic and recycle some of your old stuff? Tired of the carbon footprint created by fast fashion? Or do you just love vintage? All the more reason to buy (or sell) second-hand, also online via sites ranging from Vinted to eBay and 2dehands.be. There is no shortage of second-hand platforms on the internet.
Good to know: merchandise on online platforms is not offered by the company behind the platform, but by third parties. If you have a problem with your purchase or sale, then your point of contact is not the platform but the buyer or seller.
Find out how to buy and sell safely on online second-hand platforms and what you need to remember to do, as detailed below:
- Verify the identity and reliability of the seller
- Check the authenticity of the merchandise
- Opt for integrated payment options and contact the platform as soon as possible in the event of problems
- Check the sales platform’s terms and conditions of use
- Describe the product that you are selling in detail
- Opt for secure shipping options and insure valuable shipments
Irrespective of whether you are buying from an online store or online second-hand platform, the actions you need to take are the same:
Check who the seller is before you buy. Why? Because the seller will be solely responsible in the event of problems with your purchase. This will tell you:
- whether or not the seller is based in the EU. If they are not, it will be more difficult to enforce your rights in the event of a dispute. Moreover, you will have to pay customs duties if the package is shipped from a non-European country,
- whether you are buying from a business or private individual. If you buy from a private person, consumer law does not apply and you do not benefit, for example, from the right of withdrawal and any legal guarantees.
Did other buyers write reviews about the seller? Take your time to read them. This will quickly tell you whether or not the seller is reliable.
Online second-hand platforms prohibit the sale of counterfeit products. Nevertheless, some rogue sellers manage to hoodwink the automated verification procedures and offer counterfeit goods.
Are you buying an expensive branded or luxury product? If possible, accept the delivery in person so that you can check the authenticity of the product before you pay. Is that not an option? Before completing your purchase, ask the seller for proof of authenticity such as a purchase invoice, photographs of the label, etc.
Regardless of the value of your purchase, ask the seller questions e.g. about the condition of the product, its dimensions and features. This way you will know exactly what to expect.
3. Opt for integrated payment options and contact the platform as soon as possible in the event of problems
If payment upon delivery is not an option, choose a secure payment method such as a credit card. This will enable you to dispute the payment in the event of problems.
A number of online second-hand platforms, such as Vinted and eBay, operate a centralised payment system through their website. This means that your payment is submitted to the platform, which will only pay the seller following delivery.
Your order is delivered later than agreed or not delivered at all? The product is damaged? Or doesn’t match the original description? If you pay via the platform’s central payment system, the platform may, subject to certain conditions, withhold the money. If the platform considers your complaint justified, it will refund you.
To benefit from this protection, you must inform the platform of the problem as soon as possible. If the platform has already paid the seller, there is nothing more it can do for you. Consult the terms and conditions of use to check the deadlines and procedures you need to observe. Remember that you will usually have to pay for this kind of protection, which means that you will have to pay a surcharge on top of the purchase price.
Even if you have to pay a surcharge for a payment via the platform, this payment method is recommended. Never respond to a message from a seller, e.g. by e-mail, asking you to complete the sale or payment outside the platform. It is best to avoid payment by debit card, bank transfer or money transfer.
Sellers on online second-hand platforms are also at risk and should take specific actions to protect themselves:
Some online second-hand platforms charge commission on sales. Check whether these commissions are applicable and how much you will be charged before signing up as a seller. Also check what kind of products you are allowed to offer for sale and which conditions your adverts must comply with.
You need to describe the item for sale as accurately as possible to prevent future disputes with the buyer. Do not hesitate to publish a lot of photographs to provide the buyer with both a description and elaborate details. Also mention any defects, stains and/or other imperfections.
Are you selling a branded product? Make sure that you can prove the item’s authenticity, e.g. by providing a photograph of a garment label or other documentary proof of the item’s authenticity. Remember that the sale of counterfeit products is illegal. If you do sell counterfeit products, the platform may close your account and you risk being fined by competent authorities.
Are you unable to hand over the order in person? If so, opt for a safe delivery method. Many second-hand platforms handle a centralized delivery system via their website. The buyer pays the charges for the platform’s partner-carrier together with the purchase price via the platform and will receive a prepaid shipping label. They can then hand over their package to the relevant carrier without having to pay shipping costs.
Good to know: you will be liable for the correct delivery of the item to the buyer, regardless of whether you choose a carrier yourself or use the carrier provided via the platform. If the package is lost or damaged in transit, you will probably have to refund the buyer. This may be done automatically if the payment was made via the platform's centralized payment system and the buyer filed a complaint.
You can then claim compensation from the carrier. Unfortunately, most package delivery companies work with relatively low maximum compensation amounts.
Are you selling an expensive product? If so, contact the carrier to find out how you should insure the item to ensure that you receive more appropriate compensation in the event of delivery problems.
One last tip: take a picture of how you packaged the order, so that you can demonstrate that the package was properly packed and left your premises undamaged.
ECC Belgium at your service
Do you have further questions about buying and selling on second-hand platforms? Or would you like information concerning other consumer issues? Feel free to browse our website or contact a member of our legal team, who will be happy to provide legal advice free of charge.