Electronic e-commerce leaves too many opportunities for consumer abuse. For example, it’s all too easy for buyers to pretend they never received a package, and it’s still possible to get free shipping on items that cost 1 cent in China.
Not received ? refunded
The lack of control over online retailers’ logistics ecosystem makes misuse and abuse difficult to prevent. In October and November, doctoral students in transport economics at the University of Antwerp ordered five packages from national and international online shops to identify gaps in e-commerce.
Things can also quickly go wrong with delivery: since couriers no longer ask for a signature for 90% of home deliveries, customers can easily claim that they have not received their package. In general, no other proof of delivery is actually kept. ‘We often talk about photos, but we find that we take them very rarely and rely on the track and trace system,’ explains Professor Roel Gevaers. “A few delivery men even forged the signature of the recipient. »
Bypass the minimum quantity
If a consumer says they didn’t receive anything, many online stores will issue a no-questions-asked refund. In 41% of cases, the online store processed the refund fairly quickly, especially for orders under 35 euros. It’s no surprise that big players pay back faster, but such a policy can hurt smaller local players, UAntwerpen believes.
The minimum order value for free shipping can also be easily circumvented. As ? By ordering a higher quantity and then returning all other items free of charge. For example, in the sample, the researchers kept only one pair of four-euro socks. The trick worked in all cases: no shop asked for an insert afterwards. “This represents a major financial risk for online shops,” explains Roel Gevaers, “because the costs for delivery, return and inspection of the returned goods quickly reach between 12 and 15 euros per order. »
Package of 1 cent ordered in China
Another observation: although the European Union imposes tariffs on Chinese “dropshippers”, it is still possible to order in China for 0.01 euros, plus the free air delivery. “Despite these taxes, we still sell very cheap products online below their actual price. This phenomenon leads to unfair competition with European players,” says Professor Wouter Dewulf.
The researchers looked specifically for weaknesses in the ordering system in order to be able to recommend measures to governments and web shops to combat fraud. The University of Antwerp will soon devote an independent study to this topic, which, however, is already providing the first lessons:
Parcel service providers and online shops need to think about clear protocols and principles for canceling deliveries.
Online shops must link the minimum delivery quantity and the return quantity in their IT system;
Parcel service providers must continue to invest in high-quality track and trace systems.
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The lack of control over the online logistics ecosystem makes it difficult to prevent misuse and abuse, according to the University of Antwerp.