Watchdog: Amazon close accounts for too many returns

By Chris Dawson November 9, 2015 - 9:50 am

Amazon apparently won’t let their customers take the mickey and return too many items, according to Watchdog. If you do it’s likely that your account will be closed.

Watchdog had a few buyers lined up and rightly pointed out that under the distance selling regulations buyers do always have certain rights to return products. However if a buyers starts to return too many than it’s possible they could lose their account. Understandably Watchdog made no mention of what sort of condition the items were returned in, although their first buyer did say that they a number of faulty DVDs and had to request returns for each one.

Of course we’re not accusing the innocent buyer mentioned in this film of fraud (unlikely he’d go on the telly if he was ripping Amazon off), but DVDs are limited under your legal right of return once opened and whilst this case might be genuine it does of course prompt you to think of the real dodgy buyers who happily buy new goods and send back old broken goods for refunds.

Amazon have said “Our goal is to deliver the best experience for the millions of customers who shop with us. In a tiny fraction of cases, we are forced to close accounts where we identify extreme account abuse. This decision is only taken after we have reviewed the account carefully and tried to work with the customer over an extended time period to resolve any issues.”

What do you think? Are Amazon justified in closing accounts of buyers who return too many items, or as it’s your right when buying on the Internet should you be able to returns as many things as you like and still expect the seller to carry on shipping more out for you to try and return?

  • 6 years ago

    Surely you have the right to refuse to sell to anyone you want too. After all we are all a business including Amazon and some customers, as harsh as it sounds, are not worth dealing with. I would expect the returns to be a high number for Amazon to take this action and I thought the Watchdog report was a little unfair against Amazon as no way would they do that lightly.

    • Loz
      6 years ago

      Amazon have just closed my account down after spending thousands with them over the years but have said you have returned to many items so that’s that . OMG I return items that are not fit for purpose or faulty so for amazon to close my account just like that is disgusting and the worst customer service I have ever come across .

  • 6 years ago

    There were a few people in the pub who were outraged until I regaled them with stories about the large numbers of scallywags we have to deal with.

    I wonder if anyone told Watchdog about the eBay blocked buyer facility?

  • tinker
    6 years ago

    about time
    hurrah! for Amazon

  • Virginie
    6 years ago

    I know that if you suspect someone of fraudulently asking for returns or a gesture of goodwill and threatening you with feedback if you don’t comply, you can contact seller support and report them. This covers you for feedback and claims too and they will look into it further so it is worth doing it. I also wonder if this applied for FBA products as opposed to third party sellers.

  • Stuart
    6 years ago

    We reported a buyer to Amazon after five of their five orders failed to arrive on the first occasion. Support told us they were unable to help with this matter as Amazon can not remove buyers!

    • 6 years ago

      I was told differently. They indicated to me that they operate a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy for buyers who abuse the returns policy.

    • Paul
      6 years ago

      Because Amazon are letting so many outside sellers selling refurbished crap with them when you return a few items for whatever reason they take it upon themselves to simply close your account down and prime if you have it without any refund whatsoever ! I know about this as I myself have had just that done to me ! I’m shocked and disgusted of how Amazon went about this as they simply don’t give a toss about customers rights and are more than happy to ” breach of contract ” .

  • Ross
    6 years ago

    I’m sure the way Amazon work that it’s easy to see if someone is returning too much. I’d bet it’s more common in media products.
    Watch a DVD, read a book, rip a CD and then send it back.
    I knew someone who was banned from Tesco for similar behaviour. She seemed to relish telling people all about it.

  • steve
    6 years ago

    I can remember a few years back, paypal refused to open a case against a Seller because I had disputed 3 purchases in a row. I was told I had reached my allocation for that month. Not a bad idea. but obviously an annoyance when all the claims where genuine – still it did make me think twice; and forced contact with the Seller without invoking the dispute process which is a good thing.

    • richbkk
      6 years ago

      Please let us know your user id, I for one would like to put you on my blocked list.

  • Bryn
    6 years ago

    I recently reported a buyer (company) to Amazon as they were repeatedly buying several hundred units of the same product and returning them all. In one month alone it was over 300 units at approx £5k retail price.

    I dont know what they did as they rightly wouldn’t tell me but the buying has currently ceased


  • james
    6 years ago

    Good on Amazon!

    seriously, any other shop, these kind of people would expect to have been banned long ago.

    you go to HMV every week, buy a DVD, return it the week later as faulty, refuse all offers of replacement and insist on a full refund.
    how many weeks of doing this until they tell you not to come back?

    everybody made a point of mentioning how much they order, not a single one mentioned what percentage gets returned, i would assume if it was a low figure, they would have done so.

  • Paul
    6 years ago

    The law says that one is entitled to return ‘goods not wanted’ (under Distance Selling Regulations), or ‘faulty goods’, (under the Sales of Goods Act).

    There is NO ‘human right’ to be guaranteed access to buy on any particular website, and any website is entitled to block buyers. A buyer who is blocked from using a website does not have any complaint as they cannot lose any money from being blocked.

    Watchdog started in the 1970s championing consumer rights (rightly), but by championing consumers who think that can wipe out any seller’s profit margin by continually returning items and abusing generous (and ‘extra-legal’ returns policies), they have overstepped their left-wing cultural organisational culture’s view of ‘business’. They really should get a grip and chase scammers, and not organisations who have a decent policy of matching buyers and sellers.

  • naz
    6 years ago

    yuppi ! , finally some one has taken an action against such buyers , we are an amazon seller and our seller account has been suspended due to such buyer who were buying and returning items for no reason , infact buying 3-4 items to match keeping 1 and return rest by saying colours not as describe which indicates that sellers sold them wrong item and that is not the case we sent them correct items and this is a good ban on such buyers who think that they can easily abuse it , HATS OFF TO AMAZON thank you so much for giving sellers a safe platform.

  • Toadsfather
    6 years ago

    My customer account was closed by Amazon recently for “excessive returns” Whilst I understand the opinions expressed here, and I empathise with sellers with regard to bad buyers, the Watchdog programme raises some very valid points. I was placing around 500 orders a year with Amazon on a wide range of products for my household use. Some of these items were electronic obviously, and I started to receive an increasing number of defective items or items which were not as described (especially “Amazon warehouse orders”). For example, one pair of supposedly brand new earphones which were missing components and covered in ear wax. I calculated my return rate was just under 10% on hundreds of orders a year.

    Anyway, I received a warning a few months ago, and I responded in full explaining the reasons for all my returns and making it very clear they were for genuine reasons. I received a response with a couple of hours confirming no action would be taken thus far, and I was free to continue to return items as necessary. Over the following 6 months I returned items only when necessary as I always had. In two instances I purchased products which failed to work as I needed them to with my other equipment. In both cases I returned the items and purchased alternatives of the same value with Amazon which I kept with no issues. The returns were accepted without question.

    Then suddenly my account was closed with no warning nor opportunity to appeal. In one of the replies to my following communications in trying to ascertain why exactly, I was told I had been notified of excessive returns twice before. This was not true, they may have sent the emails but **I never received them/saw them**, probably because I didn’t have mailbox filter setup / catch all for the specific email address these notification came from at the time. There was no red banner on my account web page or anything else on the website when I logged in to indicate my account was under review and an important message required my immediate attention. From my perspective I only received one notification of an account issue, and responded immediately in full.

    Amazon obviously carefully analyse account buyer “performance”, but do not “work with the customer to resolve issues”, they evaluate your buyer behaviour over a defined period (say 6 months). If you get a bad grade, you’re toast; rather then processing subsequent return requests using an RMA process (i.e. dropping back to typical retailer behaviour). They just decide you’re bad business and acting fraudulently and ban you for life. The wording of the closed account notification email is poor, and almost offensive to be honest.

    So, once they conclude (wrongly) you are running a scam, you are toast without warning, despite previous communications indicating the issue has been resolved. As the Watchdog programme illustrates, they are playing their own game by their own rules. Fair business practice is done by clear policies understood by both parties, with appropriate communication where necessary. In my case, they have lost a big customer of many many years (almost back to year 1 of Amazon), and I’m now doing a lot more shopping at John Lewis! (and enjoying far better quality of product I have to say). There is an increasing amount of imported tat of low quality of Amazon and I personally think they’ve peaked past their best as a retailer. Deliveries were also getting less reliable, and the Prime service becoming less beneficial. So, just a mild inconvenience to me ultimately. I know the reality, and the reality was I was a decent and honest customer. I had zero reason for abusing any Amazon policy or running any form of scam. I was simply buying all my stuff through Amazon and returning stuff which didn’t work for me or were defective. I they had given me a clearer indication that there was massive issue on my account I probably would have kept even defective items rather than risk losing my account, or just ordered less – but of course, that’s not a route Amazon would want you to take…

    Amazon have a very generous returns policy, but do not be deceived, they are far from generous in the way they police it and it is not in a customer-centric fashion in my opinion.

    Thanks for reading!

    • Furhan
      6 years ago

      Were you a prime customer?

    • ifellow
      6 years ago

      Hi you mention less than 10%. If we take a figure of 4-6 % that is really alot of returns.

      As you were buying 500 items a year its even worse, because because some of those items were probably repeat purchases and hence lowered your returned ratio.

      To give you an idea from 500 purchases 5-10 would a decent level of returns.

      Im sure a company like asos maybe have 10-15% returns, but its integrated into their business model and margins.

    • Gary
      6 years ago

      Online returns average 25-40% according to industry figures. Makes a total mockery of ebay and Amazon thinking:-

  • Amazon is pretty much taking a stand on buyer fraud, but if you can justify the high amount of returns, maybe the suspension can be lifted.

    We have had a couple of clients who were hit with a lot of buyer returns, but many were fraudulent with the buyer shipping back a totally different item.

  • Mark_H
    6 years ago

    The only item I “returned” to Amazon was a book which was in a condition far worse than described (advertised as “used very good” but was dogeared and had a charity shop sticker on it). It was an FBA item.

    I was refunded and told not to return the item (it only cost a few pounds).

    Do Amazon check the condition of FBA items? They should do on a random basis or when there have been complaints.

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