Consumers are increasingly paying to return goods

paying to return goods

Paying to return goods is becoming increasingly normal. Previously, major retailers such as H&M, Zara and Wehkamp have reported charging consumers to return online orders. That trend is now continuing across the board. In two out of five shipments, the customer pays – at least partly – for the return costs, new figures from Sendcloud show.

The e-commerce shipping platform sees a clear trend based on shipping data from more than 25,000 online shops in Europe. In the Netherlands, for example, the percentage of returns for which customers had to pay rose from 31% in the first quarter of 2023 to 41% in the fourth quarter: an increase of a whopping 33%. “The days of free returns are definitely behind us. Following the example of many major retailers, we see that paid returns are becoming the standard in more and more online shops,” says Rob van den Heuvel, CEO and co-founder of Sendcloud.

Consumers need to face the fact that even ‘free’ returns are not entirely without cost, according to Van den Heuvel. “Webshops have been struggling with the logistics hassle and costs of returns for years, not to mention the impact they have on the environment. Passing on part of the return costs can help make consumers more aware of this. A prerequisite is that retailers communicate this clearly and make the returns process simple.”

Main reasons for returns

That returns are inextricably linked to the convenience of ordering online is evident from the reasons consumers give for returning their orders. As the main reason (35%) for returning goods, customers cite sizing: from ordering different sizes, to items being too big or too small. This is followed by orders not meeting expectations (23%) and damage or quality problems (9%).

Return charges vary per webshop

How much consumers have to pay to return an order differs from one webshop to another. On average, webshops in the Netherlands charge €6.68 per return, data from Sendcloud shows. However, depending on the type of return, costs can range from €1.96 to €28. Consumers typically have around 31 days to return their order, although in some cases this can be as much as 365 days.