Amazon has been making some big policy changes impacting merchants, and one unpopular policy impacts returns.
Effective November 1, 2016, US seller-fulfilled returns that are within Amazon's returns policy will be automatically authorized, and Amazon will provide customers with prepaid return labels on sellers' behalf.
Note that the prepaid return shipping policy does not impact sellers who use Amazon's FBA fulfillment service, since FBA returns go back to Amazon fulfillment centers.
We reported on the new policy in our inaugural issue of EB 411 (September 5). Amazon now a help page
called "Prepaid returns for seller fulfilled orders" (seller sign-in required).
As we had reported, Pro sellers were able to start requesting exemptions on a SKU level beginning in mid-October. According to the help page, if you are a Professional seller, you may request exemptions for SKUs that fall under the following categories:
- Products have special shipping or handling requirements (e.g. dangerous goods)
- You have less expensive shipping rates for specific products
- Items are non-returnable by law
- The item's cost is lower than the cost of return shipping
- High-valued items you have listed need special shipping (e.g. requiring special shipping insurance)
- It is a non-physical item (e.g. warranties, digital software, digital coupons)
Sellers who use drop-shippers usually have returns sent directly to their suppliers; with this new policy, they must supply a default address, and many expressed concern that they would have to deal with returns-processing at a non-warehouse location without storage space and without staff in place to handle the required 48-hour turnaround time Amazon requires.
Some sellers were concerned that Amazon's return shipping costs were too high (but as the exemptions above state, Pro sellers are able to request an exemption "if you have less expensive shipping rates for specific products").
There's a very long thread
on the Amazon boards about the policy. One seller wrote, "I want the option to replace or refund WITHOUT paying for a return."
What do you think of the new policy - and are you ready?
Thanks to the commentor who pointed out there had been a response in the 21-page Amazon thread
about this issue that came in after we published the original story. A moderator posted clarification on Sept. 11 including the following: "This program only currently applies to sellers who have received an e-mail regarding the program. No actions are required if you have not received the program e-mail. If you have received an e-mail, the program is scheduled to begin 11/1/2016." Thanks, VK.