Study: return charges can reduce returns

Online retailing is booming: this year, consumers will buy goods totalling around EUR 70 billion with the click of a mouse, but one in every six packages will be returned. Economists at the Returns Management research group at Bamberg University have found that most respondents see an end to the free return of online purchases as a way to curb returns.

Despite numerous measures in preventive returns management, the number of returns in German e-commerce is still very large, according to the Bamberg University Returns Management research group. In a study they found that respondents see technological and standardised measures to combat size-related returns as having the greatest potential for further reducing the probability of returns and resulting ecological footprint of e-commerce from the current levels.

According to respondents, a statutory return fee could also make a noticeable contribution to reducing the number of returns, and a further advantage of such a fee is that it implements the polluter-pays principle for returns. However, the researchers emphasise that the study results should not be seen as a call for legal regulation by the Returns Management research group. “This a complex issue, and further research is needed for a global evaluation of an instrument like this. Even so, the study shows that this is an interesting instrument, and one which from our point of view has so far been too little discussed and researched, which has good arguments for it, and which accordingly deserves more attention.”

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