Online retailer tackles perceived abuse by online customers
ASOS changes in terms and conditions
ASOS has changed its returns policy. In a move that some might consider to be customer unfriendly, it has made significant changes to its returns policy. It hits out at serial returners and customers who wear something once and then return it
ASOS emailed all its customers regarding the new terms and conditions.
“If we notice an unusual pattern of returns activity that doesn’t sit right: e.g. we suspect someone is actually wearing their purchases and then returning them or ordering and returning loads – way, waaay more than even the most loyal ASOS customer would order – then we might have to deactivate the account and any associated accounts.”
In addition to cracking down on serial returners, Asos’ new returns policy will allow shoppers to return unwanted purchases up to 45 days from point of purchase rather than 28.
The first paragraph is the softener, extending the returns time. There isn’t a need to do this. Under the under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 you have a 14 day cooling-off period during which you can change your mind. You have up to 14 days to inform the retailer and 14 days from then to send back the item. There are some exceptions to this, such as bespoke items. And in any case, if people are going to return an item what difference does an extra couple of weeks make to nearly a month/
However, the second part is contentious. ASOS says that if it suspects a customer of wearing an item once and then returning it, it may ban the customer from ordering from its site. Or if a customer orders a high number of clothes and returns them too frequently they may also get banned.
From the shopper’s point of view
People buy from the Internet for a number of reasons including, for example
- Inability to get to shops due to disability, lack of transport, lack of suitable local shops, etc.
There are no changing rooms on the Internet, so it isn’t surprising that people buy more items to see what fits. A couple of years ago, when wanting to find a dress for a special event, I ordered about 50 dresses! I rarely wear dresses, am all out of proportion and the thought of traipsing round shops and trying stuff on filled me with dread. So I took to the Internet and then tried on one dress after another. All but one went back.
Years and years ago we had catalogues, remember? Littlewoods, Freemans etc. We ordered from them and either paid it all off in one go or paid monthly. But all the items cost more than they did in the shops, even if you paid it all off in one go. The cost of people returning items for free was clearly factored into the cost. Big firms like ASOS should be able to cope with this, surely?
As Keshia East, beauty blogger says (see video below) “With social media, young people are buying things wearing them and returning them because they want fast fashion. It’s the culture now and firms like ASOS feed into that”.
How should a business deal with this?
Wearing an item once and sending it back is fraud, that’s clear. Customers have been known to take their items that have been worn once to the dry cleaners, so they can be returned! Any move to stop people doing this is a good one. It is no different to someone doing the same in store, it’s theft for x number of days.
However, remember the stores on the High Street which have more overheads than online retailers, lose money through shoplifting and paying for security. Perhaps online retailers would do well to remember this/ If bricks and mortar retailers have to allow for theft and plan it into their forecast then online retailers should also. Their costs are already lower than those of the High Street so should they not bear some costs too. Ordering a lot of items for choice and comparison should just be expected and again planned into a company’s online strategy, as part of normal online shopping behaviour.
Perhaps the email is just to warn consumers and put some off wearing an item once?
When a customer changes their mind and has the right to return, the return postage does not have to be paid by the customer. So, perhaps companies should consider abolishing the free returns option? This would have to be weighed against the potential lost custom compared with the possible amount saved. It could be, of course, that if someone thinks it is OK to wear something once and return it they won’t think anything of damaging the item before returning it. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 they can return the item for free.
Other issues with returns
Consumers need to be educated about fast fashion and the damage that it does to the environment. This may help reduce the amount of ordering and change people’s attitudes to always having to buy new. At the same time we need to pester companies to do more with returned items and not send them to landfill. It is a very mixed and unknown quantity of what goes to landfill. What is recycled, what is resold and what goes to landfill?
This is really hitting small businesses. I hear frequent reports of how this practice is killing them. A number of small businesses have said to me how they sell items that can’t be resold but have returned. Smaller businesses and sole traders can’t carry the extra cost.
Emma Drew blogs at Emma Drew and used to sell one eBay too says “Customers abusing our returns policy was part of the reason we decided to close down our eBay business. The majority of our stock was clothing or other fashion items and we found ourselves being used as a ‘rental service’. Each return would cost us about £6.30 to cover postage to the buyer and postage back. As a small business we could no longer absorb this cost and increasing our prices to account for this cost would put buyers off. We now no longer trade on eBay.”
Will this new measure work?
It’s interesting because I think it is just scaremongering. Social media was rife with suggestions that ASOS would look at social media and people’s accounts and look for pictures where people have taken photos of themselves, tagged ASOS and then returned the items. Ridiculous. If ASOS had the resources to look at that they would be far more than the loss they may be currently making from people returning items.
I doubt it will make any difference at all. Why should it? How will ASOS prove anything and would it risk the possible backfire if it got a customer’s details wrong?!
Other retailers may watch with interest, but the more innovative companies may look at comparing costs of returns against any backlash from getting things wrong and looking at ways to stop people being able to wear something once and return it in t
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