And consumers are feeling the impact. More than 14% said they have been penalised by a retailer for their returns behaviour, from warning emails to account deactivations.
Penalties have also been incurred for returning too many items, sending back purchases that have been used, returning goods without the right packaging or missing the returns deadline.
This is especially true of 25-34-year-olds, who are statistically more than twice as likely to fall foul of the small print.
Just last month, Asos revealed it's cracking down serial returners – those who buy items, wear them, and then return the goods for a refund.
"We also need to make sure our returns remain sustainable for us and for the environment, so if we notice an unusual pattern, we might investigate and take action. It’s unlikely to affect you, but we wanted to give you a heads up," the brand explained.
In some cases, it could lead to customers being blacklisted or suspended for abusing their rights.
"If we notice an unusual pattern of returns activity that doesn't sit right: e.g. we suspect someone is actually wearing their purchases and then returning them or ordering and returning loads – way, waaay more than even the most loyal Asos customer would order – then we might have to deactivate the account and any associated accounts."
However, this has not yet deterred consumers, with three in 10 shoppers admitting they order items that they intend to return – a figure that rises to nearly half of 25-34 year olds.
Flexible returns policies have become the norm, with 49% of customers saying a retailer's returns policy influences where they choose to shop, while 18% say they will only choose retailers that offer free returns.
Despite this expectation, an increased awareness of sustainability issues is leading some consumers to move towards a more mindful approach to the amount they are buying and returning.
Just under half are concerned about the environmental impact of over-ordering and returning goods, with one in 10 having actively reduced the amount they order and return because of this.
“The volume of goods being returned continues to rise and consumers have come to expect free returns as standard – otherwise they will shop elsewhere. As a result, we are seeing retailers implementing stricter returns policies to try to clamp down on serial returners and reduce the impact that returns are having on their business," explained Anita Liu Harvey, at Barclaycard.
“These more stringent policies have begun to affect consumers, with some retailers starting to send warning emails to customers about accounts being deactivated, should unusual or suspicious behaviour continue. On the flip side, it does seem shoppers are becoming more mindful about the purchases they make and the impact their returns could have on the environment.”
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