Next to drop free collection for returned items
Barely a fortnight ago, the BBC squealed on retailer Next for failing to follow Distance Selling Regulations and refusing to refund delivery charges for goods bought online and subsequently returned. Next put their hands up and put their behaviour down to their interpretation of the regulations, but have continued withholding refunds even though the law was clarified in April.
Next promised the BBC it was changing its systems beginning from next month, but what changes will these be? Avid Bitterwallet reader Abi has let us know, following her attempts to recoup delivery charges for a returned order. This is the email sent by Next to Abi:
"In the past NEXT, despite being entitled to charge for the collection of complete orders, has not done so. Instead we have not refunded the original delivery charge. The cost of delivery is the same as collection so this has had no material effect on our overall charges.
"As a result of clarification by the european court, we will be changing the way in which we administer these costs. Delivery charges will be refunded to customers returning their order, but a charge will be made for collection of these orders. Collections from customers who retain at least one item will remain free of charge.
"Of course it would not be viable for NEXT to send out and collect complete orders without any charge. You may be interested to know that even at £3,99 we still do not cover the full costs of deliveries or collections and this price is heavily subsidised.
"In considering your request for a delivery refund we have of course taken into account that you were not charged for the collection of goods and have not paid more than you would have paid under our new charging structure. So I hope you will understand that on this occasion we will not be able to meet your request.
I realise that in the light of media reports this may be disappointing and as a gesture of goodwill we would like you to accept free deliver for your orders during the Autumn/Winter 2010 season up to the 20th of December."
So despite Next admitting they should have refunded the delivery charges, they're refusing to do so because they voluntarily dropped their collection charges. That's no justification at all - not charging for collection doesn't excuse their obligations under the Distance Selling Regulations. If Next wanted to do right by their customers, they should at least be offering to refund delivery charges on charges made since the regulations were clarified in April.
Next are going to get their money one way or another - in the future they'll refund your delivery charges for returned goods, but then charge a similar amount for collection. That said, collection remains free if one item in an order is kept, so customers in the habit of making orders of two or more items will get a better deal by receiving the refund as well as free collection.