Asos launches new returns policy in bid to block 'serial returners'

  • Video report by ITV News Health and Social Affairs Correspondent Rebecca Barry

Online retailer Asos has revealed it's changing its returns policy in a bid to deter "serial returners" from it's website.

The online fashion giant said the change could lead to some users having their accounts deactivated.

Serial returners are shoppers who deliberately buy several items knowing full well they won't keep some of them.

In an email sent to customers this week ASOS said: "If we notice an unusual pattern, we might investigate and take action.

"It's unlikely to affect you, but we wanted to give you a heads up."

Asos' new returns policy will also allow shoppers to return unwanted purchases after the usual 28 days. Credit: PA

People who the company suspect of buying clothes online, wearing them, and then returning for a full refund, as well as those who return above average numbers of items, could now be investigated and risk having their accounts suspended.

In its terms and conditions, ASOS says: "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."

In addition to cracking down on serial returners, Asos' new returns policy will allow shoppers to return unwanted purchases after the usual 28 days.

The new changes come just months after Asos' profits warning as the retailer experienced a "significant deterioration" in trading in the run-up to Christmas.

Asos said they may have to deactivate a users account if they are ordering way, waay more than even the most loyal ASOS customer.

Within the first 28 days of an Asos purchase, consumers can return the product for a full refund.

If consumers wish to return a purchase after 29 to 45 days, they can still do so, but will receive an Asos gift voucher for the amount they spent as opposed to a full refund.

Retail analyst Louise Cooper has said she is "not surprised" by the changes to Asos' returns policy.

"As an avid Asos customer, I return half the stuff that I order, it doesn't surprise me at all that they are doing this as it's not profitable.

"Even if you've just tried an item on, you could be sending items back with deodorant stains on and so of course they are going to crack down on this."

She added online retailers should show more realistic portrayals of what an outfit will look like for a customer's body type, which could avoid further returns.

Ms Cooper said Asos was "well ahead of the curve" when they launched but now other retailers offer quick fashion alternatives and older companies need to catch up and use new technology.

  • What are the returns policies in other high street retailers?

Marks & Spencer's returns policy states you can return an item within 35 days if it is unused and not bought in the sale. Credit: PA
  • Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer's returns policy states you can return an item within 35 days of when you purchased or received it (14 days for sale items bought online, unless otherwise stated).

If the item is unused, in its original packaging and accompanied by a valid proof of purchase, they’ll offer an exchange in their clothing and home stores or a full refund.

Retailers have changed their policies in a bid to combat 'serial returners'. Credit: PA
  • Next

In Next's returns policy states they will exchange or refund any item returned in a saleable condition, in its original packaging with its receipt within 28 days or for items purchased in a sale, within 15 days.

A refund will be issued by the original payment method, to the value of the item printed on the receipt.

For debit/credit card refunds, the card and the cardholder must be present. Otherwise the purchase will be refunded onto a gift card.

People shopping at Next during their sales. Credit: PA
  • John Lewis

The retailer states returns must be in an unused and in original condition (as it was received by you) with proof of purchase within 35 days, and they’ll give you an exchange or refund.

John Lewis explains that "original condition" means you’ve kept all original packaging and labels in good condition, you haven’t used the product, the product contains no personal data - and it can be resold at full price.

John Lewis have explicitly explained what unused and in original condition means in their returns policy. Credit: PA
  • Boohoo

Boohoo's policy says you get 14 calendar days to cancel your order if you have changed your mind.

This two week cancellation period starts from the day you have received all of the items in your order.

The company does not offer an exchange policy, instead you have to return and then reorder.

Any items returned to Primark must be handed back with all tags attached. Credit: PA
  • Primark

To obtain a refund or exchange at Primark a receipt is needed and the item must be in a saleable condition with all tags attached.

The return must be within 28 days of purchase and the retailer will offer an exchange if the item is returned with a gift receipt.

Some items cannot be returned in Debenham's returns policy including beds and custom made items. Credit: PA
  • Debenhams

Debenham's offer a full refund or exchange within 28 days of delivery or collections.

Their returns policy also states the products which cannot be returned unless faulty, including beds and custom made items.