Without fanfare or a major announcement, Zara last week began charging fees for online shoppers returning its clothes. The 1.95 pound cost will be waived if customers return items in its physical stores, but not if returned via a convenient third party drop-off point.
The cost of returns has soared in recent years as online shoppers order multiple items, often the same garment in various sizes, returning the majority of their original purchase. Returns management has been a sore point for many retailers, with rates so high they often eat into a brand’s profits.
Some customers have criticised Zara’s new return policy, with one user posting on Twitter: "Expected better from you. The best, quality brands don't charge."
But not all the criticism was negative. Some lauded Zara’s fee as a positive move to reduce the carbon footprint of returns. The logistical process of returning goods comes with an environmental footprint that consumers have for too long looked the other way.
A spokesperson from Zara told the BBC: "Customers can return online purchases at any Zara store in the UK free of charge, which is what most customers do. The 1.95 pound fee only applies to the return of products at third party drop off points."
In its updated returns policy Zara states the fee will be deducted from the final returns amount the customer receives if their return is accepted. Legally shoppers have 30 days from the shipping date of their order to return a purchase from Zara.com. The items must have all their labels in tact and be in perfect condition.
Zara is not the only retailer charging for returns. High street retailer Next charges 2 pounds per return, both if collected by Next or via a third party drop-off location.
Figures from ReBound, a returns solution company managing returns transactions for some of the world’s biggest retailers, says that one in three items bought online is returned.
Zara could set a precedent for other companies to also begin charging for returns. Data from Nshift, a returns management company, estimates it costs 20 pounds for a retailer to process an online return, said the Evening Standard.
Some companies, including online behemoth Amazon, have banned ‘serial returners’, shoppers who deliberately and often buy multiple items and return them at a later date.