Consumers spent 23% more of their own money shipping back unwanted gifts on ‘wing-back Wednesday’ (2 January - the peak returns day after Christmas) than they did last year, reveals the parcel price comparison site ParcelHero. It’s warning consumers buying from countries such as China may not be covered for free returns, even for damaged or not as described items.
The amount spent by ParcelHero users on unwanted item returns rose by nearly a quarter this Wednesday compared to 2 January last year. The most returned items were dresses, electronic goods, cameras, shoes and watches. Worryingly for British shoppers, a significant number of the paid-for returns were items bought outside the EU, where the same rights on returns and free postage may not apply.
ParcelHero’s head of consumer research, David Jinks MILT, says: ‘Returns across the industry were expected to rise by 80% compared to a usual weekday; but we did not expect to see so high a rise in the number of returns paid for by the customer themselves. Under UK law all faulty goods’ returns must be paid for by the retailer, but retailers don’t have to pay the cost of returns on items that are simply unwanted.
‘Even so, in recent years there has been a sharp rise in the number of shoppers who expect all returns to be free, whatever the reason. However, this year has bucked the trend, and it looks like many more customers and receivers of unwanted items have stumped up the money themselves to return unwanted items.’
Ominously, says ParcelHero, it’s noticeable that this is particularly true of parcels marked as returned items being sent back to non-EU countries. Explains David: ‘Not every country has the same returns laws as those that apply in the UK and EU. We have seen a rise in the number of items being returned to China, Hong Kong and the USA this week – and this makes sense as China, for example, offers far fewer consumer rights than when purchasing from a seller in the UK. While many of the sites you can buy from, such as AliExpress, offer their own protection policies, these may only include a partial refund for some issues, such as items not being as described, and it’s not the law.’
Cautions David: ‘Which? says that buying goods which turn out to be fake from a website outside the UK can result in difficulties in getting a refund as that country may have different rules. You may also face a significant returns bill for goods that are not as described or faulty so, if you are at all worried, only spend as much as you are prepared to lose when buying from non-EU sites.’
David concludes: ‘For the sake of smaller UK retailers it’s good that some shoppers now seem prepared to cover the cost of returns for unwanted items; but it’s to be feared that the main reason for the overall rise in spending on returns is because more people have bought from non-EU sites and are having to use their own money to return higher value items for a refund. The cost of shipping items to China is, of course, more expensive than to the EU, and that means it is only worthwhile in the case of more expensive items.’