Dear ABC News Fixer: Lost in eBay Limbo

PHOTO: EBay Inc. signage is displayed outside the companys north campus in San Jose, California, U.S., Aug. 13, 2013.

Dear ABC News Fixer: In May, I purchased a case of baseball cards on eBay for $689.99. The product was a pre-sale and the item was not to be released by Topps Inc. [to the private seller on eBay] until July 31.

On Aug. 2, I looked up the item number on eBay, only to see that the seller had been suspended. I immediately filed a dispute with PayPal. However, my dispute was rejected because the 45-day time-frame for disputes had already passed.

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I don't think this is fair. Since eBay permits sellers to pre-sell products, they should offer buyer protection until shortly after the product's release date, which might be longer than the dispute period.

PayPal said I could file another dispute with eBay. I tried that, but eBay would not accept a dispute because one had been filed with PayPal. This makes no sense, because they are the same company. I was on the phone for two hours trying to resolve this.

- Greg Simpson, Fairport, N.Y.

Dear Greg: We see your point. Unless you had recently bought a crystal ball on eBay, how would you know you were about to get shafted on a purchase more than 45 days into the future?

We asked eBay's public relations people, and they got eBay's office of the president to look into what happened. It turns out that eBay actually does prohibit pre-sales that aren't ready for shipping within 30 days of the purchase date. But apparently that rule didn't catch the attention of your sketchy seller.

After investigating what happened in your case, they decided to refund you the $189.99 deposit you made on the cards and wipe out the remaining $500 balance. You told us that while you're glad about the refund, you're still not completely happy, because this could happen again to other consumers.

eBay told us they do investigate every problematic listing that's reported to them (consumers can flag suspicious sales by using the "Report an Item" feature on the site).

Still, after what happened to you, we suggest everyone avoid pre-sales that are more than 30 days into the future. Here are some more tips for eBay shoppers:

Carefully evaluate the listing, including the item description, any pre-sale terms and conditions, shipping prices and types, payment methods and your buyer eligibility.

Ask questions about the item and its authenticity, and use your common sense. (If something seems too good to be true, it may be.)

Check the seller's feedback and their current items. If they aren't responsive, don't buy.

Keep your contact info – email address and phone number – current.

Never move a transaction off eBay. Lots of scammers will try to do this, to avoid eBay's Buyer Protection program.

Report suspected fraudulent listings.

- The ABC News Fixer

Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

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