Does Shopify protect buyers? This is a simple question I was asked recently by someone who is moving from being an Amazon seller to selling on Shopify. While it is a simple question, the answer is quite complicated.
The short answer is no.
Shopify buyer protection does not exist and the reason for this is simple. Shopify is an eCommerce platform. It allows its customers (store owners) to use their platform to sell products online (and offline).
Many consumers do not quite understand this concept. If you don’t know much about how selling online works then it can be hard to comprehend why Shopify is not responsible for offering buyer protection.
In many ways, Shopify has become a victim of its own success. People talk about a “Shopify store” as if Shopify somehow owns the store. Shopify has become so popular as an eCommerce platform that it has become synonymous with online stores.
Consumers get confused by this and they tend to think of Shopify as something similar to Amazon, eBay or Etsy.
The Difference Between Shopify And Other Marketplaces
Shopify is an eCommerce platform. It allows anyone to open an online store and start selling products online. It has its own payment gateway built-in and also allows you to connect Paypal to your store so you can accept payments through Paypal.
While Shopify handles the payments through its payment processor, the store owner is in complete control of their products, their fulfillment, and almost every aspect of their online store and business.
You can think of Shopify as a piece of software or an app. People can buy it an use it to create an online store. Shopify simply provide the platform and the technology to do that quickly and easily with almost zero tech skills or knowledge.
Shopify is no different from Woocommerce, BigCommerce or Magento. They are all just platforms.
Amazon, eBay and Etsy on the other hand are marketplaces. While they are made up of lots of different sellers, it is still one marketplace where there is a direct agreement between a buyer and Amazon or eBay.
When you buy something from Amazon, you buy it from their website. Most people are not even aware of the fact that you are actually bing it from a seller on Amazon and not from Amazon itself.
When a customer buys something from a Shopify store, they buy it from that store which has no relationship to Shopify.com or any part of Shopify.
The transaction is between the buyer and the Store (using Shopify as a platform).
When you buy on Amazon, there is a direct real relationship between the buyer and Amazon (or eBay or Etsy).
Because of this, Amazon can offer and enforce buyer protection because they are in complete control of the transactions – and of their sellers. Amazon or eBay will be the one issuing refunds and returns.
The actual seller on Amazon or eBay has no control over this.
On a Shopify store, the actual store is responsible for refunds and returns. The only form of Shopify buyer protection comes from the store itself who gets to make their own policies and use their own judgments for issuing refunds and returns.
Does Shopify Protect Buyers From Obvious Fraud And Scams?
One of the main reasons why Amazon, eBay, and Etsy offer buyer protection is because it creates trust with buyers. It also protects their business and their integrity.
When you buy from Amazon you KNOW that if anything goes wrong you won’t be left out of pocket and you won’t be scammed.
Similarly, Shopify is concerned with its own reputation and credibility as a platform. They have a responsibility towards consumers – and they take this very seriously.
Like anything online, there are always some scammers around. Unfortunately, there are a few who abuse Shopify as a platform and use it to behave in a way that violates Shopify’s terms of service.
Shopify does not (and can not) offer refunds and compensation to customers because the transactions are between the customer and the store owner.
The way Shopify deals with this is to suspend stores and store owners from their platform if they are found to be violating any of Shopify’s TOS.
Shopify has very strict guidelines and they are getting better and better at enforcing them and finding scams before they can do much damage.
Unfortunately, there is no way a Shopify store can offer the level of buyer protection you will find one Amazon, eBay or Etsy.
How To Get Shopify Buyer Protection
So, where does this leave the consumer? If your Shopify buyer protection is left to the “goodwill” of a store owner then it will be random at best.
Consumers have one big “weapon” up their sleeves and this is available to anyone and everyone who buys anything online.
You will have to pay either with a credit card or through Paypal and both these payment methods have buyer protection built into it.
Most Shopify stores have Paypal payments enabled. When you get to the checkout, you will see a Paypal button that allows you to check out through Paypal INSTEAD of checking out through Shopify Payments.
With Paypal it is very easy to open a dispute. If your goods are not being delivered, if you are not happy with the quality or if you need an exchange then Paypal disputes will ensure that the Shopify store owner complies.
If not, Paypal buyer protection will kick in and they will eventually refund you.
With a credit card, it is a bit more complicated. If what you bought does not show up you can simply file a dispute with your credit card company and they will reverse the charge.
If you did receive the item(s) but you are not happy with the quality and the Shopify store does not want to refund you then you might be out of pocket.
Unlike Paypal, credit card companies do not investigate each issue and try and make judgement calls regarding quality ec. Generally, they only refund you when the item was not received.
Shopify store owners can dispute chargebacks. They will provide the credit card company with proof of delivery in which case the dispute will be unsuccessful for the consumer.
Does Shopify Protect Buyers – Conclusion
Shopify does protect buyers but they only do it indirectly. Since they are only a shopping platform, there is no direct relationship between the buyer and Shopify.
For that reason they do not have the ability to offer refunds, returns ec. This is very different from Amazon, eBay and Etsy which are big marketplaces where consumers actually make a purchase from the marketplace itself.
They control every aspect of the order and they can offer buyer protection because they handle the transactions.
The best way to get Shopify buyer protection is to use Paypal when you buy from a Shopify store. Paypal has buyer protection built into every transaction by default.
In the end, you have to use your good judgment as well. There are a lot of scammers out there and some use Shopify to scam you.
When you buy stuff online, the old saying holds true: If it looks too good to be true, then it possibly is.