Banned by Amazon for returning things that don't work

18 March 2016

amazon-logo Returning faulty goods to a retailer shouldn't be too much hassle, right? You've paid your money, they've sent something that doesn't work, and you should either get your money back, or a swap for something that does work. Easy enough concept.

Well, a Guardian report tells the tale of a guy called Greg Nelson who has bought hundreds of items through Amazon. He's bought a whopping 343 things, and had to return 37 of them. With that, Amazon have blocked his account, and not only that, told him he's going to lose his gift card balance in the process.

It seems Amazon aren't up for explaining themselves either.

Nelson says: "As a previously fervently loyal fan of Amazon who has been a customer since 2002, I understand that it is trying to protect its business – however I find its actions in this situation totally egregious."

"I could understand if there were evidence that I had somehow tried to abuse the system, but I haven’t. Of course, Amazon can refuse to serve whom it likes, but surely it cannot legally keep gift card balances and other purchased goods which have already been paid for by the customer – despite what any potentially unfair small print might say?"

An Amazon spokesperson told the Guardian that they can't talk about Nelson's case, apart from the fact that they are not going to reopen his account.

They said: "Our goal is to deliver the best experience for the millions of customers who shop with us. In a tiny fraction of cases we are forced to close accounts where we identify extreme account abuse. This decision is only taken after we have reviewed the account carefully and tried to work with the customer over an extended time period to resolve any issues."

Amazon have closed numerous accounts, and the killing off of people's balances is concerning. Stranger still is that the customer might be the one who suffers, when in fact Amazon's warehouse or the courier might be at fault for damaging a product.

When customers are blacklisted like this, if you approach Amazon with any queries, you're told: "Please do not make contact through the standard customer service channels again, as they will no longer be able to assist you."

Some people will be able to set up alternative accounts, but there's something going on at Amazon which is not great, and is a concern for consumer rights. One to keep tabs on.

TOPICS:   High Street News


  • monkeyhanger
    Having any gift card balance erased and not reimbursed is tantamount to theft (just waiting for Amazon to ban me now....)
  • bill
    That's a very high return rate, and sound like change of mind returns rather than faulty. You've gotta be REALLY unlucky to have 37+ faulty items in a minimal time period. I've read Amazon look into closing those with return rates of 10% and higher, and so they should. Plus buyers with such return rates are sent warnings from Amazon and given the opportunity to change their way, so it's not as if the account closure comes totally out of the blue. Unfortunately those who order loads of stuff they're not sure about/don't want/can't afford and take advantage of freepost returns spoil it for others and seller prices go higher and higher to cover the cost of these types of customer, and everyone loses out. Lots of these buyers will also falsely claim fault with the item to get pre-paid return labels. Answer is if you don't want it then don't buy it, and if you can't handle that then take your custom elsewhere because Amazon doesn't want it.
  • Cheesey
    343 orders and 37 returns sounds very high. Looking at my Amazon account last year I placed nearly 100 orders and had one return where there were missing parts. Disagree about Amazon retaining gift balances - sounds like an unfair contract term despite it being in their T&C's.
  • jangeer
    These buffoons closed my account with 6 months of prime remaining because I wouldn't provide them with government issued ID. I told them to go $#!% themselves after being told that an 'internal' department was investigating my account. I won out in the end when they reopened my account and I got my 6 months of prime back too. Could you imagine not being able to shop without a government issued ID corporate power gone mad!!!
  • charitynjw
    That's the trouble with the damn internet; you can be banned from the site without any expl
  • Richard
    This happened to me. They sent me an email threatening to close it because of my returns and issues. I called them up and gave them a bollocking and explained that since they've stopped using Yodel there has been no issues. The apologised and promised not to contact me about this again.
  • evilnoodle
    While I agree that the numbers in this case are a little high - ANY online retailer has a legal requirement to allow 14 days for returns for ANY reason. The reason behind this is that in a shop you can check out goods before purchase, this is simply unfeasible in an online market. So return upon delivery is to be expected ("Oh that dress looked much redder in the picture - it does not suit me at all"). As for stealing money from a customer... that tantamount to a bank saying "we don't like how you are doing business - the money in your account is now ours. Oh and while we are at it that house (e-book library) you bought, we will be taking that back too!"
  • Meh
    According to Which? '...The Distance Selling Regulations state that your right to cancel an order starts the moment you place your order and doesn’t end until seven working days from the day after you receive your goods....' So surely you have the right to return anything, any number of times providing it is within 7 days of receiving it. And if Amazon don't like it, surely they are in breach of the consumer contract regulations? Although, I wouldn't be surprised if they treat these regulations the same way they alledgedly treat their tax obligations.
  • JonB
    @Meh "you have the right to return anything, any number of times" There is no sign that they didn't honour the returns. They just took issue with the large number of them so decided to refuse to do business with the customer, as bill says. They should return his gift card balance, yes, but otherwise they have not done anything wrong.
  • pompeysteve
    I suspect it is likely that the customer is returning items for free by selecting a reason such as "Not of sufficient quality" or "Faulty/defective item" when in fact he has just changed his mind. - and Amazon have taken issue with that. But keeping the gift certificate balance is theft in my book
  • Jay
    When you return "too many" things Amazon will usually give a passive aggressive warning first. It will be something about "improving your customer experience so you don't make so many returns". Although they don't talk about it, most of the decisions seem to be made by their computer systems, rather than a person. It likely looks at the amount of returns and the value of the items, and they will discontinue business with you if you go past a certain line, which they don't define (but claim to decide on a case by case basis). One thing is for sure - that line is a lot more easily reached that most people seem to think. Return something of high value, like an expensive TV or laptop, and you are likely to get a "warning" quickly, no matter how valid your reason for a return. Given many of the items they sell, and the inability to inspect them in person, a return rate of around 10%, as in this case, isn't unreasonable. But Amazon would appear to think so.. The whole passive aggressive thing, which they apparently do even towards their own employees, really bothers me. These days I only go through them if I have to. I would much rather deal with businesses which have UK based customer service, and I've even started to buy from the high street more again. It would be better that Amazon charged postage and restocking fees, and were more up front about these costs. The more people who use them, and the more items they sell, the more you will understand they really need to fix the "problem" in ways which don't involve making customers feel like they dare not return items.
  • CluthA
    Refusing to do business with a customer they consider a loss is one thing, and is their prerogative. Not refunding the gift card balance though, is theft. And weirdly, for a company that prides itself on (allegedly) good customer service, Amazon are in my experience pretty sh*t actually!
  • Raggedy
    The internet has it's own set of terms and conditions and if sites don't want to be answerable, they'll just ignore any complaints until you give up and go away. Every comment I make on here is subject to "moderation" usually making these statements seem oddly out of sync with the rest. I've asked repeatedly what comment made me dangerous enough to be subject to this but have received no replies to any of the email addresses I've been using. Considering the amount of defamatory and near the knuckle libelous statements on here sometimes, my one must have been a doozy!! :-)
  • Father J.
    @Raggedy has it occurred to you that all comments might be pre-moderated?

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