Online shoppers could be blacklisted if they return too many items

Online shoppers could be given a ‘returner rating’ that would allow stores to blacklist people who constantly send things back.

The move has been suggested as a way to combat the scourge of ‘serial returners’, who cost online retailers an estimated £60billion a year in lost sales, courier fees and handling unwanted items.

The issue was highlighted by a decision this week by Asos to effectively ban customers who it regards as serial returners. The move – reported in yesterday’s Mail – is expected to be followed by many others.

The move has been suggested as a way to combat the scourge of 'serial returners', who cost online retailers an estimated £60billion a year in lost sales, courier fees and handling unwanted items [File photo]

The move has been suggested as a way to combat the scourge of 'serial returners', who cost online retailers an estimated £60billion a year in lost sales, courier fees and handling unwanted items [File photo]

The move has been suggested as a way to combat the scourge of ‘serial returners’, who cost online retailers an estimated £60billion a year in lost sales, courier fees and handling unwanted items [File photo]

Eight in ten web stores are ‘very concerned’ about the level of returns and the problem is particularly serious for fashion brands where customers are ordering items, wearing them once or twice, and sending them back for a refund. 

Often these products show signs of wear or damage and they cannot be re-sold, which means they have to be recycled.

So-called influencers on social media, mostly teenage girls, appear to make a career out of ordering clothes from fashion websites in order to model them once before sending them back, free of charge, for a refund.

Asos has a generous returns policy that includes free postage but is now making clear that it will no longer allow people to take advantage.

The small print on the Asos website under the heading ‘Fair use’ has been changed to read: ‘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.’

So-called influencers on social media, mostly teenage girls, appear to make a career out of ordering clothes from fashion websites in order to model them once before sending them back, free of charge, for a refund [File photo]

So-called influencers on social media, mostly teenage girls, appear to make a career out of ordering clothes from fashion websites in order to model them once before sending them back, free of charge, for a refund [File photo]

So-called influencers on social media, mostly teenage girls, appear to make a career out of ordering clothes from fashion websites in order to model them once before sending them back, free of charge, for a refund [File photo]

A shopper’s ‘returner rating’ would be based on purchase history across a range of online retailers and be collected by a credit rating agency such as Experian, which uses an individual’s record on borrowing and debt.

The idea was put forward by Oliver Guy, a director at AG, which advises online retailers, and is winning support from the industry.

He said: ‘Asos’s actions could well be a watershed moment. Returns are a bigger problem for retailers than is truly understood. Margins in retail are notoriously slim and every return results in margin erosion. Some estimates suggest that dealing with the cost of returns can equate to 16 per cent of total revenue.’

Retail analyst Andrew Busby described returns as the ‘scourge of fashion retail’. 

‘Giving consumers their own personal ‘returner rating’ is, on the face of it, a great way to help tackle the problem and could be set up very easily.’

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