The fourth annual Online Returns Report from Snow Valley shows that it is getting harder for customers to return unwanted goods bought online.

Snow Valley placed orders on 99 UK online stores, returning each item by post, to a store, or by courier.

The key findings:

Multi-channel returns are not getting easier – only 60% of retailers with a store network allowed goods to be taken back to a shop. 2 of the 16 store returns were refused.

Flexibility is not increasing – 55% of retailers gave no choice of returns methods

Courier pick-up is growing – 33% of retailers could send a courier to pick up unwanted goods. 10% of retailers insisted on courier collection. 3% made the customer pay for a courier return.

Return by post is down – 80% of retailers offered postal returns, down from 88% in 2007

45% of retailers covered the cost of the return, although this depended on sector – 68% of clothing retailers did so, compared to 5% of electrical retailers

Information was often hard to find – 26% of retailers didn’t enclose returns instructions with the goods. Only 45% had a link on their homepage containing the word ‘return’.

“As you might expect, there are some clear sector trends when it comes to returns,” said Sarah Clelland, Marketing Manager at Snow Valley. “Clothing retailers tend to do everything they can to make it easy for the customer to send items back. Electrical goods retailers seem to actively make it as hard as possible.

“For the first time in four years, we actually failed to return some of the items – five of the electrical retailers just made it so difficult we had to give up. No information was sent with the order and then the customer hotlines were constantly engaged until the 7 days had passed and it was too late. It does make you wonder how this kind of service impacts the consumer’s willingness to shop online.”

The 30-page report released today looks at 19 different aspects of the online returns and refunds process.

The report is available free of charge on Snow Valley’s website –

06 March 2009

About Snow Valley:

Snow Valley is the UK’s leading provider of e-commerce technology and consultancy services. Clients include Clarks, Majestic Wine, Pets At Home, TM Lewin and LK Bennett. For more information visit

Contact: Sarah Clelland, Snow Valley
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7813 9520

Published on: 2:05AM on 6th March 2009