Selling to international buyers on eBay can be a lucrative proposition. However, there are a number of pitfalls and potential selling obstructions that await uninformed sellers who may spontaneously choose to enter the global eBay market. The second part of our new international selling series, here are six very important things to think about before shipping internationally on eBay.
There are strict import and export rules that control the movement of items around the world. Prohibited and restricted items vary widely between countries and it is the seller’s responsibility to ensure that the export and import of an item is allowed by local law. If prohibited goods are intercepted by customs officials, the sender is liable for prosecution.
Some commonly prohibited items such as ammunition and firearms are somewhat expected, but some more unusual items are also banned. Sending used bedding to Australia, for example, is not allowed. There is also ban on sending lithium batteries to Hong Kong, which means that sales of most electronics are also not possible. For this reason, sellers should check regulations before sending, even when the item seems innocuous.
Good to know: The USPS has a great country-by-country guide to restricted items.
Regional eBay differences
In a similar manner to the above restrictions, sellers should also be aware that prohibited items can vary between regional eBay websites. The list of banned items in each country is usually based on local laws and regulations but eBay has the discretion to forbid other types of goods being sold.
Good to know: Examples of prohibited items on regional eBay sites can be found at the bottom of the international trading policy on eBay.com. Listings that do not follow country guidelines may not appear on the regional site.
Taxes or import fees
Items sent internationally are liable for additional customs fees on arrival in the destination country. There is no real way to know how much these fees may be until the buyer receives the item. Keep in mind, buyers who purchase via the Global Shipping Program pay for import charges upfront.
Buyers who purchase items regularly on international sites will be well aware of this issue but a first-timer is likely to have no idea and may be unpleasantly surprised when their item arrives. This surprise may be used (unfairly) as a reason for negative feedback.
Good to know: While it is not the seller’s responsibility to pay these fees, it is a courtesy to remind an international buyer about these charges.
There are regional differences the world over that can make selling certain items internationally very tricky. Seasoned travellers will be well aware that plugs can vary between different countries, but did you also know that DVDs are also ‘locked’ to a region? A DVD sold in Canada, for example, will not work in a UK DVD player as North America uses region 1 and Europe region 2. Games and their consoles can also be region locked.
Good to know: Sellers should be aware of regional compatibility issues and advertise their item appropriately. It may also be worth ensuring that any international buyers are aware of any regional compatibility issues before sending the item.
Purchasing insurance for an item is a bit like having a safety net. If an item goes missing or is damaged in transit, a seller can claim their money back for the item. Shipping insurance is usually a good idea anyway but is particularly helpful when selling items internationally. Insurance can usually be purchased through mail carriers (such as USPS or Royal Mail) or via third party companies.
Good to know: As useful as it may be, insurance is NOT a replacement for tracking.
PayPal is used in over 200 countries with 25 different currencies available. With this kind of reach, PayPal is the most common method of payment for international eBay transactions. Indeed, the Global Shipping Program requires that PayPal is offered as a payment option. Likewise, the international site visibility listing upgrade also requires sellers to provide PayPal as an accepted payment method in the listing.
Good to know: Sellers can withdraw multiple currencies from their PayPal account.
Do you know any other issues that sellers should be aware of when entering the international market on eBay? Please share in the comments below!