Alice a private individual (natural person not acting in the course of business) lists an item she doesn’t need anymore on eBay, though not as an auction. She specified in the listing “No returns.”

Bob orders the item and then goes to collect and inspect it. Either on the spot he changes his mind or a couple of days later he decides he doesn’t like it as much as he thought he would.

As it is a non-auction online/remote/distance sale, can Bob cancel the contract even though the listing clearly specified “no returns “?

2 Answers 2


If Bob took possession of the item, there's nothing wrong with the item and Bob just changes his mind about wanting it, he doesn't have the right to return it to private seller Alice.

Consumer protection law doesn't govern transactions between natural persons not acting in the course of business.

  • 2
    The Sale of Goods Act 1979, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999, and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 were replaced by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. None of these gave or give Bob the right to return on changing his mind.
    – Lag
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 11:30
  • 3
    If Bob has paid for the item he is obliged to take it away.
    – Lag
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 11:32

Blanket “no returns” clauses are illegal

See ACCC v Valve.

Under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), purchasers of goods have a statutory right to a refund in the event of a major fault with the product. This cannot be contracted out of and it is unlawful misleading and deceptive conduct to state that there are no refunds in all circumstances. It is lawful to refuse refunds because the buyer changed their mind.

eBay knows this and they tell their buyers that they have to accept returns in those cases.

However, let’s assume that Alice knows this and her “no returns” clause is a legal “no returns for change of mind” and there is no fault with the product.

When was the contract formed?

Contract formation in online sales usually follows the following steps:

  1. The seller makes an invitation to treat to the world by listing their product. No contract yet.
  2. The buyer makes an offer to the seller at the seller’s asking price. Still no contract.
  3. The seller accepts the offer by dispatching it to the buyer; usually by mail or courier but here we have a buyer picking up the item. It is at this point that a contract is formed.

At any time before step 3, either party can walk away, after step 3, there is a legally binding contract.

So, if Bob rejects the item when he inspects it, we are before point 3 so he can do this. “A couple of days later”, he can’t.

  • 2
    Alice is not a company, selling item akin to a flea market.
    – Trish
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 5:43
  • 3
    @Trish Alice is a supplier of goods or services - it doesn’t matter that the supply is not in the nature of a business.
    – Dale M
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 12:15
  • 2
    It seems that by "illegal" you mean "not legally valid", but my initial interpretation was "Alice commits a crime by writing it". Or what exactly are the consequences of such "unlawful misleading and deceptive conduct"? Does it matter that eBay makes a superseding statement here? Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 14:43
  • 1
    What about situations where the seller knows nothing about an item beyond what is disclosed, e.g. someone buys property which contains seller-abandoned items that appear as though they may have some value, and the buyer of the property simply wants to liquidate them. If the person selling the items accurately describes how they acquired them, I wouldn't think they should be required to refund a purchaser if the items are substantially less valuable than they would have appeared.
    – supercat
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 18:05
  • What if (and I think this is typically the way it works with a 'pickup'): Alice responds to Bob's 2/offer by agreeing to a pickup time/date and marking the listing as "sold"? I would think that step would be a contract, even though the pickup has not taken place yet. Commented Sep 3, 2023 at 3:37

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