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How to get a refund from PayPal

How to get a refund from PayPal


It may take a while, but with luck, you’ll get your money back

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

It’s a situation none of us want to deal with but most of us will have to deal with sooner or later. You buy a product online, and it arrives damaged. Or the wrong color. Or it simply doesn’t work. Or the description doesn’t match the product. Or it simply never shows up at all.

What do you do?

If you bought the product through PayPal, you do have options — but you’re going to have to be patient. There is a variety of steps to work through to get your payment back. First, a bit of explanation — and a warning.

PayPal offers what it calls its Purchase Protection Program to anyone who purchases something through its service, so if there is a problem, you have a way to get your money back. The basic steps are laid down in PayPal’s Help page on what to do if you didn’t receive your item or if it’s different than was described. We’ll go through them in a moment. First, some info.

If you are purchasing a product and the seller asks that you send the payment through PayPal as a friend — don’t

The Purchase Protection Plan is only available if you used PayPal for, yes, a purchase. If you simply sent money to someone — a friend, say, or a relative — then once the money is accepted by the other person, there is no way to get it back (unless they agree to refund it). As a result, if you are purchasing a product and the seller asks that you send the payment through PayPal as a friend rather than as a purchase — don’t. It could be a scam, and if it is, you won’t have any recourse.

There is a list of transactions on PayPal’s User Agreement page that aren’t covered by the Purchase Protection Plan. These include, among other things, real estate, some vehicles (in other words, you’re not covered if you buy a car, but you are covered for a bicycle), gift cards, or donations.

One other item worthy of note: if you find that there is an unauthorized transaction in your PayPal account — in other words, someone managed to pull money from your account without your knowledge and/or permission — then immediately contact PayPal using this page (where you can tell them about it via a form or a messaging app) or call them at (888) 221-1161.

All that being said, here’s how to get a refund when you make a purchase through PayPal and believe you should get your money back:

When you have an issue with a vendor, your first stop is PayPal’s Resolution Center.
When you have an issue with a vendor, your first stop is PayPal’s Resolution Center.
  • First, go to PayPal’s Resolution Center. Click on “Report a Problem” to open what the company calls a dispute. You have 180 days from when you first made the transaction to do this.
  • Once you’ve opened a dispute, you have 20 days to contact the seller through PayPal to see if the problem can be resolved that way
  • If you can’t solve the problem (or you never hear back from the seller), go back to the Resolution Center, find the listed entry for your dispute, and click “View” > “Escalate to PayPal.” Now the dispute has formally become a claim.
  • PayPal will begin investigating the claim and will email you updates as to the status of its investigation. If it finds that your claim is legitimate, you’ll get a refund to your PayPal account.

According to PayPal, it usually takes about 30 days for a claim to be resolved, although it can take longer. You can go to the Resolution Center to see if anything’s happening.

We spoke to someone who has been through the process, and in their case, although it felt like a long and complicated journey (especially because they were doing it for a small amount of money), in the end, it worked. They had bought a dress through a site that sold second-hand clothing, never received the dress, and could not get an answer from the seller. They contacted PayPal, and the process went just as described above: they first sent a message to the seller via PayPal, then PayPal took over the negotiations. When the seller still didn’t respond, they received a refund. It took, they reported, a little over two weeks.

And if, at the end of that process, you’re still not happy?

Once PayPal comes to a decision on a claim, the claim is considered closed. If you’re not happy with that decision, you can appeal the decision within 10 days by going to the Resolution Center, finding your case in the “Closed cases” section, clicking on “Appeal,” and following the instructions.

Otherwise? There’s always the traditional go-tos: the Better Business Bureau, the attorney general’s office for your state — or, of course, Twitter.