High street fashion retailer H&M has joined other companies in charging shoppers who return items purchased online.
Customers must now pay £1.99 to return parcels online, with the cost of the return being deducted from their refund. H&M’s in store returns service remains free of charge.
Rival high street stores including Zara, Boohoo, Uniqlo and Next already charge for online returns, with retail experts predicting that even more are likely to follow suit.
During the pandemic, when online shopping inevitably soared in popularity, customers became increasingly more reliant on returning items when they did not fit. However, this also led to a rise in people buying items in bulk and returning almost all those items, some of them worn.
While most online and high street retailers do not formally announce the move to charge for returns, many have introduced the change under the radar, with H&M implementing the return fee this summer.
Business analysts have told the BBC that other retailers are likely to do the same.
"It’s interesting that companies seem to be doing it by stealth, but it’s a sensible thing to be doing," retail expert Jonathan De Mello told the outlet.
"It makes economic sense, as it discourages shoppers from bulk buying online products and then returning the majority of them. That’s been a real problem for companies."
While H&M shoppers might be disappointed in the extra returns fee, added De Mello, most might understand why a company would need to make this decision, especially when it comes to the environment.
Many shoppers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of deliveries and returns, from courier vans to wasted packaging.
Retail expert and analyst Natalie Berg wrote on Twitter/X that retailers have “created a monster” with free returns.
“ââH&M charging for returns. Retailers have created a monster with free returns. It makes financial and environmental sense to put an end to this ‘buy to try’ mentality.”
But Berg pointed out that customers who have signed up to H&M membership would be exempt from the extra fee for returning items.
“This is actually a really delicate way to tier your customers,” Berg said of the membership scheme. “Slowly climb down from costly promises by limiting those benefits to loyalty members. Retailers have become too generous over the past decade. Save that generosity for your most valuable customers.”