The Common Law

Buying on eBay – Caveat Emptor Part II

I have placed a bid for an item on eBay, and I no longer wish to purchase it. Will eBay ever allow me to back out of a bid agreement?

Not usually. If you are the highest bidder at the end of the auction and your bid is accepted by the seller, you are obligated to complete the transaction. Ordinarily, bids are binding and may not be retracted.

Keep in mind, however, that bids on certain eBay auctions are nonbinding. For example, bids on items prohibited by law or the eBay User Agreement are not binding. Copyright laws may be violated when sellers list counterfeit items and represent them as genuine.

There are a few additional circumstances that may allow retraction of a bid on eBay. One such situation is when a typographical error has been made in placing the bid. Should this occur, eBay will request that you re-enter the correct bid amount immediately after you retract your mistaken bid. A second instance in which eBay will consider allowing retraction is when the seller has significantly changed the description of the item for sale. Retraction may also be permitted when a winning bidder is unable to reach the seller. This means that you tried calling the seller but his or her phone number doesn't work, or you have tried e-mailing a message to the seller and it comes back undeliverable. Finally, bid retraction may be granted when someone has fraudulently bid on an auction using your eBay User ID and password.

If you find yourself in one of the above situations, it is important that you attempt to retract your bid as soon as possible. Retraction becomes a more complex process if the auction is scheduled to end in 12 hours or fewer. If you don't meet the criteria listed above, you always have the option of contacting the seller; she will have the discretion to cancel your bid.

Do you want to become a savvy eBay shopper? The eBay Learning Center at offers online tutorials, and eBay University at offers classes to help you on your way.

Want to know the safest way to pay on eBay? Read next week's column.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP,

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or

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