Managing shipping and returns can be complicated for MFN sellers on the Amazon marketplace. In order to streamline the process, Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) announced that the returns procedure for seller-fulfilled items will be getting a makeover beginning October 2, 2017.
Let’s look at how it works.
Merchant-fulfilled items that are included in the Amazon returns policy will now be authorized automatically. The returns policy varies by category, so be sure to check it to see if any of your seller-fulfilled products qualify for automatic authorization. Customers who are returning items that qualify can instantly print a prepaid return shipping label in the Online Return Center. Sellers must have a return address on file; click here to specify a return address.
Many merchants have expressed concern over this policy change. Automatic authorized returns mean that the buyer will no longer have to contact the seller prior to sending the item back. This also means that the merchant will no longer be able to communicate with the customer about the return, a frustration for sellers who pride themselves on providing top-notch customer service.
Merchants who fulfill their own orders can also enroll in returnless refunds. This allows sellers to set rules that issue an automatic refund without instructing the buyer that the item be returned. While this could save some merchants return shipping and processing costs, many critics have pointed out that the system could easily be abused by buyers who want free items. Luckily, sellers can choose whether to enroll in this program based on their inventory.
The Fine Print
Merchants who do not enroll in returnless refunds have two business days to issue a refund after receiving a request. If a seller does not act within this time frame, Amazon could refund the customer and charge the amount to the seller’s account. Depending on the items returned, the merchant could be held responsible for return shipping costs. Some items do not qualify for prepaid return shipping; sellers can ask for exemptions for specified inventory items after August 31, 2017. Return disputes can be appealed with Amazon directly.
These changes to the returns process for merchant-fulfilled orders are intended to help reduce the effort associated with managing returns. They are also meant to help decrease the Return Dissatisfaction Rate (RDR) for sellers. In an email to sellers, Amazon noted that the RDR for early adopters has decreased by about three times.
Reputation Management is Key
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