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18 Apr 2020

Retailers extend returns policies during lockdown following pressure from Which?

Sports Direct and House of Fraser among the stores that have now updated their returns policies during the COVID-19 lockdown

A number of well-known retailers, all part of the Mike Ashley-owned Frasers Group, have extended their returns windows after Which? called on them to review their policies.

House of Fraser, Firetrap, Flannels, Jack Wills, Lillywhites, Sports Direct and USC were insisting that customers post unwanted items back within 28 days of receipt, despite clear rules from the government stating people should only leave their homes for food shopping or exercise.

None of the retailers offer a home collection service for returns. This means that people who are self-isolating or shielding would have been unable to return or exchange their unwanted items, while others would have had to break the lockdown rules to go and post their returns back.

The retailers have now updated their policies, allowing customers to return items after stores reopen.

Which? is calling for all retailers to extend their returns policies during the coronavirus lockdown unless they're able to safely send a courier to collect the item from customers' homes.

'I'm not going to queue up in a Post Office'

Before the Frasers Group retailers changed their returns policies, we spoke to Ricky Maloney, who wanted to return clothes to designer store Flannels.

He told Which?: 'I've been working from home since 12 March and have only left the house once in that time to take the dog to the vets,' he told us. 'I'm not going to go and queue up in the Post Office just to send some t-shirts back, no matter how expensive they are.'

Many of the other Frasers Group retailers were also asking customers to return items via registered post, and had not updated their returns windows for in-store or online purchases.

Which? called on the retailers to extend their policies or arrange a courier collection service for returns. None of the retailers responded, but they have now updated their websites with new policies.

Firetrap, Lillywhites, Sports Direct and USC are now accepting returns for both in-store and online purchases for up to 14 days after stores have reopened.

Flannels, House of Fraser and Jack Wills are giving customers 28 days to return items after their stores reopen.

Only use the Post Office if it's essential

Many people use the Post Office when they want to return an online purchase.

However, the Post Office has asked people to consider whether their parcel is essential before putting staff at risk by visiting a branch.

Though the Frasers Group retailers are still accepting returns via the post, it might be worth waiting to return your items when stores reopen.

Which retailers are extending their returns policies?

Most retailers are either allowing customers to return items once stores have reopened, or offering a free courier collection service from customers' homes (adhering to social distancing measures).

However, don't assume all retailers are extending their windows. It's best to check the individual retailer's policy before ordering - and if it's unclear, contact them to ask.

Some retailers will charge you for the courier collection service if you do choose to return any items.

Our table below outlines what some of the major retailers are doing to extend their policies.

RetailerReturns window for online purchasesReturns window for in-store purchases
Apple14 days after stores reopen.14 days after stores reopen.
Arcadia Group (Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Topman, Topshop, Wallis)Within 45 days of receipt.14 days after stores reopen.
ArgosItems bought from 1 March can be returned up to 30 days after stores reopen.Items bought from 1 March can be returned up to 30 days after stores reopen.
B&QWithin 135 days of purchase.Within 135 days of purchase.
Currys PC World21 days after stores reopen.21 days after stores reopen.
Debenhams14 days after stores reopen.14 days after stores reopen.
DecathlonOnce stores have reopened. Late returns will be honoured.Once stores have reopened. Late returns will be honoured.

Mike Ashley-owned retailers under fire for coronavirus response

This isn't the first time Mike Ashley-owned retailers have received criticism since coronavirus hit the UK.

Last month, Ashley attempted to keep Sports Direct stores open despite the strict lockdown rules on which types of shops could still operate.

After finally agreeing to shut stores, the retailer was accused by its staff of reportedly hiking prices of sports equipment by 50%.

You might be unsurprised to learn that Sports Direct and House of Fraser also performed poorly in the latest Which? survey on the best and worst online shops, coming in joint-97th out of 100 retailers.

To find out which sites are worth spending your money with, check out our guide to the best and worst online shops.