Charging return costs? Consumers leave immediately

Charging return costs? Consumers leave immediately

Return costs determine a large part of our online buying behaviour: almost one in two Belgians would not make an online purchase if they were charged five euros to return the products.



A study commissioned by economics minister Nathalie Muylle has shown that free returns are taken for granted by many people. Among other things, the study showed that around 60 % of people make at least one online purchase per month. The majority of online shoppers are under the age of sixty, and quote price, time savings, and the wide range of items on offer as important reasons to make an online purchase, Belgian newspaper De Standaard writes.


The impact of return costs on buying behaviour is striking: it is clear that returning items free-of-charge has become the norm. When a cost of five euros is charged, 46 % of shoppers see that as enough reason to abandon their purchase. Looking at a charge of 10 euros for return costs, three-quarters of consumers would not bother.


"We believe climate awareness is an important issue, but still items are returned in huge quantities", Muylle told HLN. "Research shows that the last mile of a parcel delivery accounts for 75 % of costs: not just in monetary terms, but also in terms of traffic and air quality. That is where a clear policy can make all the difference."


The minister has made four recommendations to make the shipping and return of parcels more sustainable. Her proposals include price differentiation based on the delivery date, new forms of distribution such as collection points, new ways of organisation, and raising consumer awareness.