Online Shopping: Refund… Return Costs

During the pandemic, merchants have eliminated return shipping costs to make online shopping easier. They start backing off.

Clothing retailer Uniqlo Canada is now charging a fee for returning items purchased from its online store. H&M stores are preparing to test the same policy in Europe. Zara, meanwhile, is charging a “restocking fee” of $3 per item when returned to a UK store. And last May, clothing and outdoor chain Altitude Sport increased shipping rates to $10 in Quebec: “Like many companies, we’re being hurt by rising energy costs,” the company explains on its website.

Online during the pandemic

During the pandemic, many merchants have closed stores to focus on e-commerce. They saved on rent and staff costs. However, the energy crisis has increased the cost of transport, logistics and raw materials. Meanwhile, inventories are rising as households cut spending due to inflation.

With fewer points of sale, especially in the regions, consumers sometimes have no choice but to order online and try on clothes and shoes at home. This new reality is helping to increase returns as customers return unsuitable items.

Return rates are skyrocketing

Americans returned $573 million in merchandise in 2020, nearly a quarter of which was purchased online, according to the National Retail Federation. Inspired by retailers’ policies, customers began ordering multiple sizes of the same model to try on in the comfort of their own home, resulting in a surge in returns.

At Nero Bianco Group, which operates footwear and accessories stores, the return rate for items purchased online is 20%, compared to 4% for in-store purchases. “Our transportation costs are four to five times higher than before the pandemic,” emphasizes President Jean-Francois Transon, who is not prepared to charge return costs. This is a tough call against big players like Amazon who are betting on easy profits. In this situation, some retailers prefer to reduce the return period. Others charge a “restocking fee”.

Clicking means acceptance of the return policy

According to the Consumer Protection Law, nothing obliges the seller to return the money or exchange the product, unless it has defects. The seller is free to set a deadline for returning an item, refuse to accept back open boxes, exclude certain items from being returned, or even accept only an exchange if they so choose.

Before going to the checkout, in order not to leave yourself too tight shoes or a jacket of the wrong color, the Consumer Protection Service recommends that you carefully read the seller’s return policy, which can be found on his website or on his account.

This policy specifies important elements such as the deadline for exchanges and returns, as well as supporting documents that must be submitted in the event of a complaint. When items are not eligible for exchange or return, this should also be mentioned. This typically applies to merchandise such as loose DVDs, lingerie, sale items, and special orders.

Keeping invoices and labels, as well as the original packaging, in a safe place makes the process easier. Finally, if you are requesting a refund, please make sure you have the credit or debit card used to pay the bill. If in doubt, feel free to ask questions. Return policies sometimes contain details in small print. Better put on your glasses to read them…

>> Read also: Can we cancel a purchase made remotely? and Everything you need to know about returns, exchanges or returns

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