Goods that never arrive, buyers who turn out to be fraudsters and customer disputes settled by computers: How eBay left us out of pocket

Although it began in 1995 as just an auction site, eBay has grown into a massive multi-national shopping mall boasting a staggering 19million UK users a month.

Its share of UK online shopping visits runs at 15 per cent, according to figures from analyst Experian Hitwise. More than 220,000 firms sell goods direct to customers alongside the auctions.

And four million users list at least one item for auction every month. Sellers can usually list up to 20 items for free and pay a fee of 10 per cent when something is sold. Buyers do not pay anything.

Nearly half of all sales on eBay are now made on smartphones.

You can buy or bid for almost anything you can think of. The most popular categories are fashion, home and garden, and electrical goods.

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