Zara has started charging £1.95 for returns

Free online returns are generally a massive headache for retailers, costing them a fortune each year, but as shoppers we’ve all come to expect the option of sending clothes back free of charge if they don’t fit or suit us.

However, this could all be set to change, as major high street retailer Zara has started charging £1.95 for online returns, prompting questions over whether other brands will follow suit. Analysts told the BBC it was likely that other retailers will soon start to charge for online returns.

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The charge only applies to postal returns via third-party drop-off points. In this case, the £1.95 will be deducted from the refund amount. If you take your item into a Zara store to return it, then you won’t have to pay.

Zara’s move could signal the end of online haul culture, where social media users buy huge amounts of clothes from a specific retailer and show off their #haul online, before returning most of it for free. It has won praise from some corners of the internet, with people highlighting the positive environmental impact of making people more conscious of what they buy and potentially lessening the amount of delivery vans on the road.

However, other commenters were angry at the move from Zara, which comes at a time when finances are already squeezed for many.

One person wrote on Twitter: ‘Zara making changes to your free returns which now cost your customers and making no announcement about it? Not cool.’

There were also plenty of comments about the difficulty of returning items in store at Zara, with shoppers citing long queues and poor customer service as hindrances to doing so.

Zara is not actually the first big high street retailer to start charging for returns – Uniqlo and Next have already done so – but it’s certainly never caused such a stir before. We’ll keep you updated as to whether other major brands follow their lead.