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Charging for Returns Could Address Inefficiencies

12 December 2019 - 16:19 by Mike Price

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While millions of consumers in the UK and around the world order via safe shopping online and then return goods that they are not satisfied with, this is becoming something of an issue because of its costs to both retailers and to the environment.

Now a new study from the University of Bamberg in Germany suggests that adding a small fee for returns could cut the use of such services by a fifth.

Charging around £2.50 for each product that is sent back to retailers is being suggested as a mandatory legal minimum in an attempt to roll back some of the problematic habits that have been developed in recent years.

This may sound like bad news for many consumers, since it will hit those who have legitimate reasons to return products as well as those who are simply taking advantage of free returns to try out items they have no intention of keeping in the long term. However, researchers believe that it will actually mean that products will be cheaper, since retailers will no longer need to subsidise their ‘free’ returns services by charging shoppers more.

Fashion is an industry in which returns from online purchases are particularly prevalent, with many consumers ordering multiple versions of the same item to see which size fits best. Experts argue that as well as implementing a fee for returns, it will make sense to try and lower the need for returns in the first place by providing improved sizing tools that are accessible via e-commerce sites.

Whether this kind of enforced returns fee for online shopping will be rolled out in the UK remains to be seen, but it could eventually be the only way to ensure that the environmental impact of e-commerce is not too great.