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Asos warns customers it is getting stricter on returns

Online fashion house Asos has changed its terms and conditions around product returns, in a clear example of the retail industry evolving in the face of rising costs caused by mounting returns.

In an email to customers and those who have signed up to receive its alerts, Asos said it has increased the time people can return items from 28 to 45 days, but in a warning to serial returners it said it may have to deactivate the accounts in the event of suspicious activity.

For items returned within 28 days, Asos said it will refund customers as normal, but after that – up to 45 days – shoppers will now receive an Asos gift voucher for the amount they spent.

“We also need to make sure our returns remain sustainable for us and for the environment, so if we notice an unusual pattern, we might investigate and take action,” it added in its email.

“It’s unlikely to affect you, but we wanted to give you a heads up.”

The detail was in the small print, with Asos including a “Fair Use” policy in its terms and conditions.

“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,” it said.

A Barclaycard survey of over 2,000 people released last summer found almost one in ten shoppers in the UK admitted they have bought clothes online to wear once with the sole aim of posting a photo to social media before subsequently returning their purchases.

This type of activity – to create what Barclaycard describes as a “hashtag moment” – is one of the situations Asos is looking to clamp down on as part of its change in terms and conditions.

It comes as the cost to retailers of returns continues to squeeze margins. Global returns management platform ReBOUND estimated the total cost of returns to the UK retail sector between Black Friday and Christmas Day 2018 alone was £2.4 billion.