eBay is automatically enrolling members into its Global Shipping Programme. But what is this, and what does it mean for you? Also see: How to sell on eBay: 30 tips and tricks for making more money

eBay Global Shipping Programme: What is it?

The Global Shipping Programme is eBay's attempt to open up items for sale on its auction site to a global- rather than local audience. It is well aware of the fact that many of its members will refuse to sell outside the UK, simply because they don't want the hassle of posting items abroad. The Global Shipping Programme removes this hassle. 

Nothing should change for you the seller: you will get a UK postal address to which you should despatch your item. eBay then posts the item abroad on your behalf. This means you get a much bigger pool of potential buyers, without the hassle of working out international postage costs. eBay's SendIt tracking service should also protect you from overseas 'item not received' cases although, as the Guardian has discovered, when something goes wrong it isn't always easy to get a satisfactory result.

However, the comments at the bottom of this article suggest many sellers are disappointed with the Global Shipping Programme, branding it a rip-off for buyers, particularly when buying multiple lots. And this, of course, impacts negatively on sellers. The good news is you do not have to use the Global Shipping Programme, and it's a simple case of removing a tick in a box beside it in the postage section when uploading your item for sale.

As the buyer, the point of the Global Shipping Programme is that there will be no more desperately trying to convince another eBay member on the other side of the world to sell you an item, only to be turned down because it sounds like too much hard work. Technically it means international postage will be accurately calculated by eBay, so you shouldn't get ripped off and pay over the odds for the priviledge, but as we've just mentioned this doesn't appear to be the reality for some eBay members. It also means you won't get postage discounts when buying multiple lots. Also see: Don't be a loser on eBay 

eBay Global Shipping Programme: How does it work? 

eBay will late last year have informed you that you have been enrolled into the Global Shipping Programme, and it will since have been automatically applying international postage costs to your auctions. If you haven't opted out, you will find that if a foreign buyer wins your item, you will be asked to despatch it to the UK Shipping Centre, where eBay will take care of the rest using an international tracked service. You will be provided with a unique identifier code that must be written on the parcel. 

eBay Global Shipping Programme: Will I be charged extra? 

No. You pay only for the UK shipping costs; eBay will charge the buyer for the international postage costs. Also see: How to change your eBay password 

eBay Global Shipping Programme: What countries are included? 

The following countries are included in the eBay Global Shipping Programme: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, China, Japan, Russia, USA and Canada.  

If you have purposely excluded any countries on your listings then these will remain in place. Also see: Is eBay UK down? 

eBay Global Shipping Programme: Will it affect your feedback score? 

Not in a negative way. You will automatically get a five-star rating for postage and packaging charges if you provide free postage to the UK Shipping Centre, and a five-star rating for postage time if you verify that an item is despatched within one day and it reaches the shipping centre within three days. 

Any negative feedback that can be attributed to the Global Shipping Programme will be removed from your account. That includes when eBay accidentally loses your item after it reaches the shipping centre. 

eBay Global Shipping Programme: How are returns handled? 

This is the catch: the eBay Global Shipping Programme does not handle returns. It is up to the seller and buyer to work together to resolve any issues. However, eBay will refund the international postage fee - you need only refund the UK postage and the price of the item. 

You will have to abide buy the normal rules for eBay refunds, so if an item has been inaccurately described or is broken, for example, you will have to give a refund. If it has been damaged after it reaches the UK Shipping Centre, then it becomes eBay's problem. 

Business sellers should note that in most cases the EU Consumer Rights Directive 2011 allows them to withdraw from a transaction without giving reason if it's within 14 days. 

eBay Global Shipping Programme: How will it affect delivery times? 

It will add a little time to deliveries, but eBay says items delivered through the Global Shipping Programme will benefit from professional customs processing to minimise delays.  

On average, parcels will reach the EU within three- to five days, and seven- to 10 days outside the EU. Buyers are shown this time period PLUS the estimated time it will take your item to reach the shipping centre. 

eBay Global Shipping Programme: How do I opt out? 

For some users the pros will outweigh the cons for joining the eBay Global Shipping Programme, but if you do want to opt out just go to My eBay, Account, Site Preferences, then click the Show link next to Postage Preferences. Now click Edit next to 'Offer the Global Shipping Programme' and click Opt out. 

You can also opt-out on a case-by-case basis. To remove the Global Shipping Programme from a single auction, go to My eBay, Activity, Sell, Active and choose Edit, Edit selected for the relevant item. Click the 'Edit selected policy' link in the 'Add postage details' section, then clear the 'Send it to the UK Shipping Centre' option from the International postage section.

Follow Marie Brewis on Twitter.