Amazon’s New Return Policy
…not for the faint of heart!
There are two important things for you to know about this new Return Policy. First, it became effective on November 1, 2016. Second, this program only currently applies to sellers who have received an e-mail regarding the program. If you were not contacted about this new policy applying to your company, then you currently do not have to abide by these new customer refund requirements.
This new Amazon pre-paid refund policy also does not apply to Sellers who use Amazon’s FBA fulfillment service. This is because FBA returns go back to an Amazon fulfillment center instead of directly to the Seller. Since Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) shipments are not impacted by this new policy, it is Amazon’s hope that more professional Sellers will opt for entering their FBA program.
Why a New Policy?
It is apparently Amazon’s position that this new policy will enhance Amazon customer service for their buyers. It is expected that by accelerating the return and refund process for non-FBA purchases, the consumer will benefit. Amazon has stated that by initiating this policy for professional Sellers who ship their own products or use 3rd-Party shippers, this policy will force them to provide a level of customer service that is similar to what the Buyer would experience with FBA purchases.
It remains to be seen if this new policy will have a positive impact on the Buyer of non-FBA purchases. However, if the number of negative reactions posted on multiple Amazon related blogs is any indication……it appears that most of the effected professional Sellers who have to adhere to this new policy are highly concerned about it.
“Nuts & Bolts”
So what exactly is the new policy and how will it affect the Sellers who are required to follow it? All U.S. Seller fulfilled returns that are within Amazon’s standard returns policy will be automatically authorized and Amazon will provide customers with prepaid return labels on the Seller’s behalf…..with the return shipping to be paid for by the Seller. This new Policy is listed on the Help Page of the Amazon website under a section titled “Prepaid returns for Seller fulfilled order.” To access this section, a Seller sign-in is required.
Sellers who use drop-shippers usually have returns sent directly to their suppliers. However, with this new policy they must also supply a default address. Many Sellers have expressed concerns that they would now 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 will require with this new policy.
This 48-hour return time includes weekends and evidently holidays. It does not appear to only reflect “business days,” in the policy time line. Hence, companies that are closed for weekends or over standard national holidays may find they are still required to provide this service seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Does Your Company Qualify for a Policy Exemption?
It appears that Pro Sellers were able to request exemptions for specific SKU’s beginning in October before the policy was enacted. According to the aforementioned Help Page, if you are a Professional Seller, you may still request exemptions for certain SKU’s that fall under the following categories:
- Products that have special shipping or handling requirements (e.g. dangerous goods)
- You have less expensive shipping rates for specific products
- Items are non-refundable by law
- The items cost is lower than the cost of the 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)
Some Sellers were concerned that Amazon’s return shipping rates (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.”
One of the most common stated concerns by Amazon Sellers seems to be the issue of dealing with used, damaged or incomplete (or even completely different) returned items. Once Amazon refunds the customer, many Sellers worry that it is going to be very hard for them to get their money back. It is also worrisome that a Seller will now have to deal with Buyers who simply change their mind or decide they don’t like the product after they have used it.
Another main concern is for the Seller who may sell multiple items to a Buyer, and has those products drop-shipped from multiple manufacturers. If those products are returned, they will now all be shipped back to the Sellers “default,” address, which will likely result in the Seller having to pay for the individual shipping of those products back to the manufacturers. Hence, the Seller will pay to have the return shipped back to their default address…..and then also be responsible for shipping the product a second time back to the manufacturer!
Finally, many Sellers have had great success in dissuading a Buyer from returning a product by simply communicating directly with them before their concerns were escalated to the level of a return. Sometimes, the Buyer simply needs to be further educated about the product thus turning a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied one. Perhaps it is user error and a quick customer support call could save or “rescue,” the sale. However, with this new policy, the Seller will most likely not have that option as once the Buyer notifies Amazon that they want to return the product……the procedure is automatically activated!
This new policy is definitely not for the “faint of heart,” Seller who will have to deal with it. It is suggested that Sellers review their product descriptions and past product reviews to ensure that they are accurately informing prospective customers everything they need to know about their products. The more complete and detailed the information is they can provide to a Buyer before the product arrives, should mean fewer surprises for the customer, thus fewer returns for the Seller. One thing is for sure though, while this new policy may be good for the Buyer, only time will tell if Amazon Sellers feel the same way!