Right to Return Fosters Growth in Online Retail

  • Returned articles are almost all resold
  • The overwhelming majority of returns go back to market as high-quality goods
  • Re-conditioning avoids waste and saves resources

The Internet as a retail path for goods of all kinds is growing strongly, but at the same time, returns present online retailers with challenges. Consumers are only making moderate use of their right to return articles. The average return rate for retailers in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland is 10 percent or less for more than half (57 percent) of the surveyed retailers, a new study has found.

“Returns are a general phenomenon of retail, and not one which is just Internet-specific,” says Prof. Dr. Georg Rainer Hofmann, Leader of the Competence Group E-Commerce in eco – Association of the Internet Industry. “Consumer-friendly laws allow customers to return regretted purchases, and that makes ecological and economic sense – even if, in certain cases, high return rates keep retailers on tenterhooks.”

Articles sent back by consumers are, according to the information provided by the e-commerce retailers surveyed, almost all resold depending on the reason for return. After a quality examination, they are either put back on the market as high-quality goods, or are repaired and sold as re-conditioned goods.

Fair return policies encourage online trade

Consumer rights in Germany have been considerably strengthened in recent years, with many new rules. This has certainly led to the practice that consumers order goods, in order to check them thoroughly at home before purchasing them, and if in doubt, send them back. The introduction of the right to return in the Distance Selling Act has contributed to a high and still growing popularity of ordering via the Internet. “With returns, customers exercise what is essentially their right, as granted by the law makers. Even if the returns mean increased costs – in the end, it is useful for everyone: for consumers the economy, and the environment.”

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