Cleaning up eBay, one step at a time



A mere 6 or so years ago I used eBay to pick up a number of 2nd hand iPhones for myself/family. At that point, most eBay iPhone auctions were “individual” people selling their personal phone for whatever reason, alongside a handful of “businesses” that clearly were selling multiple phones they had procured for the purpose of resale.

These days, when you look on eBay, it’s completely flipped - most iPhones are from business entities, and there’s just a few individual sellers.

A few months ago I noticed that a lot of the businesses were using a feature of eBay to make their iPhone auctions appear to be better than they really were - The auction title would for example say “iPhone 6”, but when you looked at the item, it would have a drop-down box/s so you could choose the specifics - ie colour etc etc. One of these options would be to select the model of phone, and as well as “iPhone 6”, they would include an iPhone 4 in that list, at a fairly low price. As such, eBay’s “list view” would show that low end price - making it appear that the iPhone 6 (as per title) was very cheap.

I took eBay to task over this, and will totally claim the fact that that practice appears to have disappeared as a win to me :slight_smile: based on a few hours searching today.

However… What I’ve now discovered is that most of these business entities that claim to be selling “new, sealed” iPhones, are in fact selling refurbs. The ACCC recently took a business to task over this exact practice - a refurb is not new. (My research today suggests that the refurbs are nearly all coming from Korea, with some sellers admitting this, and noting that for this reason the “click” sound cannot be turned off when taking a photo.) (Weird Korean law I’m guessing!?) The sellers indicate that there is no warranty from Apple, but they will cover it for 12 months.

I don’t have a problem with someone selling these phones, just with the fact they are advertising them as “new”, when they are in fact refurb. From the comments being left, most people are clueless about what they are actually receiving.

(Apple probably wouldn’t be thrilled by what’s happening… Seems the Korean refurb store has a leak!)

Seems it’s time to point out to eBay the fact this practice contravenes Aust Consumer Law…




These eBay listed refurbished units are often third-party, and not always decent quality either. A common occurrence around our workshop is someone coming in with an iPhone, under the impression that it’s less than 12 months old, when it’s really an ex-USA model sold by Verizon or T-Mobile, refurbished with an aftermarket screen, battery and in some cases enclosure, and sold into Australia as a new unit. Zero warranty service from Apple.

Another common trick is Woolworth’s Click & Collect option available on eBay. The sellers sell an iPhone with Click & Collect as an option, which in the minds of some consumers legitimises the otherwise shady operation. After all, you’ve purchased it and you’re collecting it from a bricks and mortar store. It seems a lot more certain that you’re receiving a product and that product is real, new, and in working order.

But disassemble the phone and it has stickers over screws not present on the genuine item. Sometimes the battery isn’t genuine. Sometimes Touch ID doesn’t work. I’ve come across loose screws rattling around inside these phones before.

When the customers discover their new phone is in fact a combination of genuine, refurbished and aftermarket parts hastily assembled, they question it on eBay, only to discover the seller has since packed up and gone elsewhere.

I wouldn’t purchase an iPhone on eBay. Ever. Same for MacBook replacement batteries. These markets are a race to the bottom in terms of quality and cost, and the consumers are being misled.


I’ve noticed that sort of dodgyness lots of times. I’ll be looking for some sort of adaptor that should be $10 but shows up as $0.50 because they also include a USB to microUSB in the list. Drives me totally nuts. Maybe eBay should simply change the system to show the Highest price rather than the lowest. That will force people to either split their listings or not try to trick the customer. I’ll buy from another seller just on principle if they do that.


Japanese law. I’m guessing these iPhones are coming from Japan, into Korea, and then out to the rest of the world. Japanese phones are required by law to have the photo shutter sound always on (though it is possible to turn it off with the right software hacks), because of the epidemic we have here of upskirt shots of school girls. It isn’t always implemented well, because as I have learned from trying to take pictures in quiet environments, covering the speaker with your finger or plugging in headphones and rerouting the click to the earbuds essentially makes this meaningless.


Thanks for the feedback, @iMic! I was frankly shocked how many of these sellers there are, selling “New” “sealed” “generic box” iPhones. Straight away figured there was something “wrong”, but I’m sure they fool plenty.

Thanks for the insight, @kionon. I guess that makes sense - Japan would have a huge market for iPhones, and Korea has cheap labour to “fix” the broken ones and re-sell them.