Online commerce is booming – but where customers benefit from bargain days and free returns, the environment sometimes suffers. On Monday, the Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (SVRV) criticized in particular the “problem of return in online retail” and presented a solution for more sustainable online retail to the Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection (BMJV). Board member Hans-Wolfgang Micklitz called for “responsibility to be taken over by the economy, politics, but also by consumers themselves”.
Among other things, the Advisory Board suggests that consumers should be required to bear the cost of “returning safe products” – so far they have often paid nothing at all. “Almost 60 percent of companies would like to charge return shipping, but due to competition, they do not,” explained the BMJV’s independent advisory committee. Experts referred to a study by the University of Bamberg in 2019, according to which a minimum fee for the return of three euros would lead to a 16 percent reduction in return.
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“Ordering from the comfort of your home with just a few clicks and sending goods back free of charge without much effort is much more part of everyday consumption than ever before,” said Christian Kastrop, Secretary of State for Consumer Protection in Handelsblatt. But this consumer behavior has “dark sides that we have to face when you think of the return boom, the resulting increased traffic and the destruction of new goods.”
According to the Advisory Forum, an “open social debate” and better consumer education are also needed. It is “almost impossible” for them to gain an overview of complex national and international requirements, such as the extraction and recycling of raw materials, “and to find out the conditions under which products purchased online are produced and transported”.
Experts also criticize the fact that aspects of sustainability still occur mainly in environmental laws and hardly in consumer rights. From their point of view, Germany faces the “Herculean task” of connecting the two areas. (AFP)