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Read the fine print: returning holiday purchases online

It’s the busiest week of the year for returns, including for online purchases. Managing director of Retail Category Consultants Sally Seston says it’s important to know the return policy.

It’s the busiest week of the year for returns, including items purchased online

Shopping online on a tablet with a credit card (Shutterstock)

This week is the busiest of the year when it comes to returns and with the rise of online commerce, more of those transactions are happening through the mail.

Canada Post research shows the majority of online shoppers believe that easy returns are important.

"The good retailers have become absolute transportation and logistics experts and the fact is 21st century consumers want what they want when they want it," Jim Cormier with the Retail Council of Canada said.

When online consumers don't like what they get, they also want to send it back. Cormier said that means retailers are now competing with each other on return policies.

"A lot of retailers now, when you shop online, your package will arrive and there often will be an already prepaid return envelope," he said.

So you think you're getting your $100 back when in fact you're getting something less than that.- Sally Seston, managing director of Retail Category Consultants

There is a lot of variation depending on what the product is, where it's from and how much it is worth. 

Managing director of Retail Category Consultants Sally Seston explained that just because you don't pay postage doesn't mean there aren't fees involved with online returns.

"Often times in the fine print but there's a restocking fee," she said. "You won't have to pay postage to send it back but you may have to pay a 15, 20, 25 per cent restocking fee. So you think you're getting your $100 back -- when in fact you're getting something less than that."

She said there are also increased prices if you are returning across the border to the United States unless you work out the proper paper work around duty and taxes back.
 

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