So you bought, or were bought, an item, a gift, a present - perhaps you just made an impulse purchase online - with international shipping, or worldwide delivery, to your country and, for whatever reason, you don't want to keep it - you want to return it, or you want a refund? What do you do? Here is our advice for how to do an international return.
Buying something online from abroad is fairly easy these days what with package forwarders and worldwide shipping companies, such as Borderfree, who can arrange delivery overseas and take care of customs and everything else involved in the shopping process. Many shops can also arrange the whole international shopping process themselves and make the whole experience worry-free and easy.
But, as with all shopping, after you have received your item, it has been delivered from the US or UK to your home in another continent, you have changed your mind and you don't like it, or the size or colour is all wrong or it doesn't work and you need international returns. What do you do?
Here is our step-by-step guide to international returns:
1. Read the returns policy
Most reputable shops will have a good and easy to find international return and refund policy. It is always important to read it, preferably before you shop, but not everyone will, we all understand that! Read the returns policy as soon as you realize you want to return the goods you bought. Some shops even have a returns center where you can arrange and manage your return.
Check the time frame, each shop will have a different return period. Some shops such as Amazon Global will give you 30 days in which to return your purchase. IN EU law you have 14 days to change your mind and return your item, although many shops will offer longer. Some offer 365 days or more.
2. Look for the retailers returns page
If you are within the time frame you can proceed by following the instructions the retailer has written on their return items page, if the time frame has passed, we recommend that you get in touch with the store anyway, if you have a good reason they might take pity on you and let you return the item. They may not but, if you don't ask you don't get!
3. Get your authorisation number
Most of the time you will need to get in touch with the merchant for your authorization number. You may have to print a label or include this auth. code with the postal return address. ASOS, who offer 28 days returns period want you to get in touch straight away, for example. The authorization code is the shop's way of identifying your item, so make sure you get it and include it in the parcel you are sending back. If you are returning more than one item you will probably need a separate authoristaion code for each item you wish to send back.
4. Choose how you will return the package
Select your method. Some shops will provide a few different ways for you to return your parcel. Sometimes you can get in touch with the courier who will handle the return and come over and pick up the package to be sent back, ie DHL, USPS or FED-EX. Some shops also accept returns from the local post office, US Postal Service or AUSPost for example. Another method might be a dropoff, some shops will have arrangements where you can drop the package off without actually posting it.
We recommend that you get proof of postage when you send back your item. Some shops will require this, and it proves to them that you have sent it back and will mean that the return package can be tracked. It is often free to get this receipt.
Many international orders must be sent back by mail and not returned at a store, for instance this is the case with Macys (180 days returns). So don't just think you can visit a store, if they have one nearby.
5. Await confirmation
Wait for confirmation of receipt of the return package. It might take a few days for the package to be shipped back overseas to the merchants warehouse.
6. Check for refund.
Ordinarily the refund will be made to the card that you made the initial purchase with. But some gift returns and other returns might result in gifts cards, vouchers or store credit.
7. Use customer services
If you are not happy or something has gone wrong, get in touch with the store's customer services using the method that they have requested, usually via email or through a contact form, be sure to include your initial order number, your return authorisation and any tracking proof of postage codes you have to make it easy for them to deal with your query.
8. Will my import duties, taxes and costs be refunded?
Some shops will pay for the international returns and even refund you the import duties you many have paid. Borderfree will do so for the many shops that they manage international shopping orders for. Borderfree.com will even refund you using the same currency exchange rate and the same currency you paid in. Unfortunately many shops won't do this, so you could end up out of pocket.
Some shops require you to pay the postage when you return an item, you will have to reclaim any taxes or import duties yourself.
This is another reason why it is always important to check the returns policy before you shop, just as you would check their worldwide shipping policy.
eBay Global Shipping Programme Returns.
EBay global shipping program does not currently deal with returns in some countries, such as the UK, so returns need to be handled between the seller and the buyer without the global shipping programme getting involved.
Package Forwarder Returns
Some package forwarders, such as MyUS will not deal with returns, some like Borderlinx will. Either way you need to be aware of the store's returns policy and your package forwarder's as well.
Using this advice should mean that you can return an international purchase easily. If you have shopped from abroad and need to return an item and have a comment feel free to leave one below, or you can ask a question about returns and refunds in our community forum where we will attempt to answer or help you if we can.