How to Cancel Bids on an eBay Auction

Image shows a small girl placing a $40,021 bid on eBay while her dad is cooking in the other room. Text reads: "3 ways to cancel bids on eBay: to cancel a winning bid, contact the seller; to cancel a winning best offer, contact the seller; to cancel a bid in an ongoing auction, fill out a bid retraction."

Image by Jaime Knoth © The Balance 2020

While no transaction on eBay is set in stone, submitting bids on an auction and making offers are considered commitments to buy. With the exception of bidding on motor vehicles or real estate, bidding on an eBay item creates an actual binding agreement. Frequent bidding and then canceling a bid is not an accepted practice, and too many retracted bids can result in eBay placing buying and selling limits on your account or suspending it altogether. 

When Bid Retractions Can Be Requested By Buyers 

At the same time, eBay knows that buyers sometimes make mistakes, which is why it has set up guidelines for canceling bids. While eBay doesn't encourage the cancellation of bids and tends to take a hard line on them, there are certain exceptions.

If a seller has made significant changes to the description of an item, or if a buyer inadvertently bids the wrong amount, or the seller cannot be reached, those are all acceptable reasons for a buyer to retract a bid. 

There are certain provisions, however. If the auction in question ends in less than 12 hours, the most recent bid can be retracted if it is requested within an hour of being placed (if it’s more than 12 hours, all bids can be retracted). Otherwise, bids are considered binding until the listing ends or the buyer is outbid.

When Bids Cannot Be Retracted By Buyers

Retractions are not permitted for cases of buyers remorse, when a buyer has bid on multiple items but only intended on buying one, or if the buyer is trying to manipulate the auction to find out the reserve price or to discover how much another bidder’s maximum bid is.

Seller Cancellations

Sellers, meanwhile, also have the ability to cancel bids in certain circumstances. If a buyer requests a retraction, if an item is no longer available or there is an error in the listing, or if the seller suspects that a fraudulent buyer is bidding on an item. Once a bid is canceled, it cannot be reinstated. The process for a seller to cancel a bid is the same as how a buyer requests a retraction by submitting a form. 

Requesting a Bid Retraction

If a transaction circumstances meet the provisions and time restrictions for retracting a bid, the buyer can request for their bid to be retracted. In that case, the buyer will need to fill out a Bid Retraction form, entering the item number, user ID of the bid being retracted, and selecting the reason for cancelation. If the time restrictions have expired, a buyer can still request a bid retraction, but they’ll need to reach out directly to the seller, and then it’s up to their discretion whether a retraction is granted or not. 

How to Cancel a Winning Auction Bid

If you bid by mistake and actually won the item, the steps are different. Contact your seller through the eBay messaging system and explain that you want to cancel the sale. While sellers will be disappointed, most will honor the request and move on. Sellers only get a strike against them when they cancel sales because of damaged or missing inventory. eBay sellers cannot force buyers to pay, so if the seller makes any threatening or harassing statements, report them to eBay Customer Service.

How to Cancel a Winning Best Offer

Best Offer is another situation where buyers may change their minds. Here again, sellers are not happy to hear that buyers want to cancel a sale. For many, eBay is how they earn their living. But buyers have the right to cancel a sale. Again, contact the seller and ask to cancel the transaction. Neither trading partner will be able to leave the other feedback since the transaction isn't completed, and money isn't exchanged.