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Amazon to Enforce International Returns Policy

Some sellers are rethinking the viability of international selling on the Amazon platform unless they use Fulfillment by Amazon. That’s because on Thursday, Amazon reminded sellers of its international returns policy. And for those not in compliance by January 20th, it could prove expensive.

Amazon had sent a notice to sellers in 2011 telling them they were required to have return policies that are at least as favorable as the Amazon return policies. This was to ensure a consistent experience for buyers.

But while sellers are allowed to charge buyers for the cost of returning orders, Amazon wants to make sure buyers aren’t charged international shipping fees to return a product purchased from a seller who is based outside their country. It informed sellers last week that they must provide a local address in their Elected Country for returns – and if they don’t, they must pay for return shipping on all returns.

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The notice, “Return Policies for International Sellers,” was published on Seller Centralon December 18, 2014:

If you sell on an Amazon marketplace website in a country outside your business location, you should be familiar with our international returns policies.

Customers buying on Amazon expect a consistent and straightforward product return experience. In order to create a consistent return experience, we require all sellers either to 1) provide a local address in their Elected Country for returns, or 2) pay for return shipping on all returns. For example, if you sell on Amazon.com, you must either provide a return address within the United States or provide free return shipping for buyers in the United States.

For instructions on updating your default return address, using multiple return addresses, and creating pre-paid mailing labels, see our Help page on Return Addresses & Mailing Labels. When you create a pre-paid mailing label, set the return label cost to $0.00 to ensure the buyer is not charged for return shipping.

And in its letter to sellers last week, Amazon wrote, “All sellers, including sellers shipping from a country outside of the marketplace on which they’re selling, must abide by this policy. Failure to meet this requirement by January 20, 2015 may result in the removal of your selling privileges.”

A seller based in the UK said a product costing 10 pounds might cost 20 pounds to ship to America using a courier. “Now if they want a return not only do we lose out on the original 20-pound courier cost that we have to refund but pay an extra 20 pounds to get it back – or even much more as collections seem to cost more.” The seller said they would have to think hard about whether Amazon was viable for overseas sales. “I fully understand the need for consumer protection, but feel everything is now tipping away from the seller. In some industries it is just so much harder to make it viable.”

On its help pages, Amazon addressed the challenge sellers face when it comes to international returns. It advises sellers to consider charging restocking fees and offering partial refunds, or, it advised, “build return costs into your price.”

Another option is to engage a third party to provide a local return address for your international orders, Amazon said. “Depending on your sales volume and unit price, this may be an alternative to absorbing the cost of international returns or writing off returned orders.” It provided the names of two companies that provide local return addresses for international orders: Seller Engine for North American sellers, and Intercultural Elements in Europe.

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Ina Steiner

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. Send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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