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26 May 2022

How to avoid paying Zara's new £1.95 returns charge

Zara has started charging customers for online returns, but still allows free returns in store

Zara has started charging £1.95 for the return of online orders to designated drop-off points, such as the Post Office.

The £1.95 is deducted from the refund issued but Zara continues to allow free returns in-store if you want to dodge the charge. 

Zara's new policy was swiftly applied unannounced on 3 May 2022 and means that ordering the wrong size online could end up costing you an extra £5.90 when the original delivery fee is added, compared to shopping in-store. 

Zara’s returns policy

Zara’s returns policy allows customers to return orders within 30 days of the shipping date and items from different orders can be returned in the same box. You can return items to Zara stores that are located in the same region as the online purchase was made for free. Or you will need to pay £1.95 to make a return at a designated drop-off point. 

Zara told Which? that this policy was brought in for sustainability reasons – it is better for the item to be returned to store than for delivery drivers to pick up small quantities from small regional drop-off points. The retailer added that it has already been charging for returns via third-party drop-off points in other markets in Europe.

Our investigation into next-day delivery services found that e-commerce can potentially be greener than high-street shopping, but it depends on how many fuel-burning deliveries of single-item packages are made. This is why retailers claim that charging results in fewer returns and therefore, fewer journeys made. However, the journeys that customers make to stores for returns also carry a carbon footprint.

Other publications have speculated that one of the possible reasons for Zara’s policy is to tackle ‘serial returners’ who make a habit of buying items in bulk and then returning them, or to encourage customers to shop in-store following falling footfall since the start of the pandemic.

A Zara spokesperson told Which?: 'Customers can return online purchases at any Zara store in the UK free of charge, which is what most customers do. The £1.95 fee only applies to the return of products at third-party drop-off points.'

Unhappy Zara customers

Zara customers have taken to Twitter to complain about Zara’s new policy, 'Perhaps @ZARA want to increase the amount of tills they have in store instead of us having to queue for half an hour,' said one Twitter user

As buying multiple sizes to see what fits will now come with additional costs, sizing was another issue customers complained about on social media.

Zara customers with disabilities have also highlighted how the policy will directly impact their ability to make a free return:

Shopping online is my only option due to #ChronicIllness/#Disability. I simply won’t purchase anything that I’d have to pay to return. This is an #Ableist policy by @ZARA. Thank goodness for @ASOS whose #Inclusive free returns allow disabled people to shop w/o additional costs.

— Phoebe (@PhoebsBo) May 13, 2022

Returns rights

Zara confirmed to Which? that if a customer contacts Zara Customer Services and explains that they are unable to visit a store due to their disability, then Customer Services would email the customer a pre-paid returns label so that the customer could use this at a Drop-Off Point and not be deducted any charge, or if a customer is unable to make it to a Drop-Off point, Customer Services would send a courier to pick the returns up, again free of charge.

At the time of writing, this information was not clearly provided on the returns policy page of Zara’s website. 

Under The Equality Act, companies are expected to make reasonable adjustments for disabled consumers and if you’re having difficulties using a service due to a disability, you can legally ask the company to make adjustments. Companies can’t ignore the cost of making reasonable adjustments to disabled customers. Disabled customers who complained about the policy change on Twitter were asked by Zara to contact the @Zara_Care Twitter account via direct message for further assistance. 

If you are disabled, it's worth contacting the customer service departments of the retailers you shop online with to see what adjustments they can make for online returns.

Under Consumer Contract Regulations, you have the right to cancel goods and services sold online up to 14 days after the order date or when the last batch is received in the case of multiple items in one order. Retailers are also obligated to refund the standard cost of delivery, so if you paid for services such as next-day delivery, only the standard delivery cost will be refunded. 

Unfortunately, you may have to pay for a return if the retailer has stated so in its returns in its policy, so make sure you check its policy before making a purchase. Retailers can legally ask consumers to pay the direct costs of returning goods, which can only be assumed as Zara nor any other retailers charging for refunds have stated if the charge covers the cost of returning.

For faulty items, you’re covered under the Consumer Rights Act. Under the Consumer Rights Act, you are entitled to a refund or replacement for goods that are:

  • Of an unsatisfactory quality,
  • Not as described, or
  • Not fit for purpose.

If the goods that you’ve received don’t meet these standards and you are returning them within the first 30 days of receiving them, you should expect a refund including any additional charges you’ve paid for delivery or a return. 

Read our guide for more information on how to complain about a refund, repair or replacement under the Consumer Rights Act and use our free tool to complain about a faulty item.  

How to get free returns

As the policy change from Zara happened unannounced, it's best to check the delivery and returns policies of a retailer before you buy.

If you use PayPal to shop online, it has a service called Return Shipping on Us, which covers the cost of up to 12 return charges per year of up to £15 per return. After processing the return (keep a copy of your return shipping receipt), log into your PayPal account, go onto your account activity and select the ‘Request return shipping refund’ link in your purchase details. You can then submit a return shipping request form alongside proof of your return within 30 days to receive a refund of the return charge within 10 business days.

Besides visiting a store to make a return, you can also ask someone to do this on your behalf if you’re not able to travel. Or you can contact the retailer’s customer services team and ask them if they’re able to provide alternative arrangements for you to make a return, citing the reason why you’re unable to make the return in-store.

This article has been updated since first being published to include Zara's response that most of its customers do returns in store.