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Parcel sticker for a return of goods via DHL in Germany

Returns ( French retour , "return", "return"; also: return of goods or returns ) will mail the return of goods from the consumer to the seller called.


In the mail order business, the customer buys “goods which he cannot see, which he cannot grasp, from people he does not know”. An order therefore requires a relationship of trust between the retailer and the consumer, which can be strengthened by the option of returning the goods. In online trading, a return is the goods returned by the customer to the supplier .

The motives for returns are diverse; In 51% of the returns, the goods did not meet the customer's expectations , in 24% of the cases the goods were damaged , 20% had ordered several alternatives and 5% were subject to an impulse purchase through a promotion. When it comes to returns, the aim of the consumer is either an exchange or a refund of the purchase price . Since a purchase contract has usually been concluded, the purchase law must be observed when returning, which does not allow a return in every case.

Legal issues

Consumers in Germany is at distance contracts a right of withdrawal according to § 312g para. 1 BGB to, the cancellation period as a deadline 14 days is ( § 355 para. 2 BGB). The revocation must be clearly explained before the return (§ 355 Paragraph 1 BGB), which can be done by e-mail , fax or letter ( § 356 Paragraph 1 BGB). According to Section 357 (3) BGB, the seller must repay the purchase price within 14 days using the same means of payment that the buyer used for payment.

According to Section 357, Paragraph 6 of the German Civil Code, the consumer bears the direct shipping costs for returning the goods if the entrepreneur has informed the consumer of this obligation. The entrepreneur can also agree to assume these costs (Section 357 (6) sentence 2 BGB). The consumer must also pay compensation for a loss in value of the goods if the loss in value is due to a handling of the goods that was not necessary to check the condition, properties and functionality of the goods and the entrepreneur informs the consumer of his right of withdrawal has (§ 357 Paragraph 7 BGB).

According to § 312g Paragraph 2 No. 1–13 BGB, there is no return option, in particular for goods individually manufactured according to customer orders , perishable goods with a short expiry date , hygiene items with the seal removed after delivery or sound carriers (including software ) with the seal removed after delivery u. a. However, since this list is exhaustive , motives not listed here entitle the buyer to return goods, such as repentance (the buyer does not need the goods) or the legally irrelevant motive error to return.

economic aspects

The returns management recognizes four types of returns. A-returns are in good condition and can be directly resell , B returns require smaller Reworks (such as new packaging ), C returns have larger defects , which a renewed sales in the primary market prevent and therefore on the secondary market as returned goods Tobe offered. D returns can no longer be sold and disposed of . The return process is overseeing this species for their respective mapping and processing .

The return rate indicates the ratio between returned goods and the total goods issue :


The return rate in the entire German online trade averages 4%; the return rates are particularly high for clothing / shoes (28.5%, for women's clothing up to 70%), entertainment electronics (15.6%), household appliances (15.4%), IT articles (15.1%); followed by books (13.4%) and phonograms (13.2%). Depending on the type of payment , the return rate is particularly high for "payment against invoice " and lowest for prepayment .

Reduction of the return rate

Since, for example, returns are factored in by the customer in the textile trade from the outset, not all reasons for returns can be eliminated. However, it is possible to publish comprehensive product descriptions and product images so that customers can get comprehensive information online. Numerous online shops also offer size advice or product videos so that customers can get an accurate impression of the products. The return rate can also be reduced by ensuring that online retailers always deliver correct orders. For example, scanner- supported order picking or RFID technology can support this.

Returns are always associated with costs. In order to reduce this, online retailers are trying to simplify processes in the shop, in the warehouse and in returns management and to automate them as far as possible. A merchandise management system that is closely interlinked with an online shop system is often used for this purpose. In some shops, customers create and print their return slip themselves. The information is transmitted to the merchandise management system so that the information is available there at an early stage. If the goods arrive in the warehouse, the return is assigned to the respective delivery by simply scanning the return slip. In addition, credits are automatically calculated and automatically credited to the customer - taking into account all discounts and codes that the customer used when ordering.

Returns for groceries

Returns management is an essential part of sales control, especially in bakeries . Since freshness is a central quality criterion here, it is necessary to produce freshly the quantities of product that are expected to be sold during the day. The expected sales per product are estimated on the basis of past sales and, if applicable, existing firm orders. Since the actual sales volume is unknown in advance, it makes economic sense to deliver a production volume to the branches that slightly exceeds the assumed sales volume. There is therefore a planned return rate. Since a resale of products that have been delivered to the branches after they have been returned is prohibited for reasons of hygiene, the actual returns represent a cost component that is included in the calculation of the final prices. From a commercial point of view, however, it does not make sense to plan a return rate that is too low, as the sales volume is influenced by the scope of the goods on offer. If individual products, especially those with high sales such as bread, are sold out, sales of the other products also decrease ( supply gap ). In order to reduce return rates, the company can deliver to the branches several times a day. Production in on-site ovens is also suitable for peak loads in order to reduce return rates.

In the bakery trade , the excess stocks of baked goods that have not yet been sold when the shop closes are also referred to as returns . However, this is not a matter of returns in the strict sense of the word, because goods that have not been sold do not reach the consumer and therefore cannot be returned by him. In the case of genuine returns, the decision to return is made by the consumer, in the case of returns in the bakery industry, the retailer and, in the case of recalls, the seller .


According to Statista , the proportion of people in Europe who returned goods ordered online in the past twelve months was highest in Germany in 2018, at 53% . It was followed by the Netherlands (52%), France (45%), Italy and Spain (43% each), Scandinavia (42%), the United Kingdom (40%), Belgium (38%) and Poland (32%). A study by the industry association Bitkom showed in 2018 that every eighth online purchase in Germany is sent back. Most of the returns are made by the 14 to 29 age group. More than half of online shoppers (51%) also state that they have ordered goods on the Internet at least once or occasionally with the firm intention of sending them back. 6% do this regularly. For providers, returns not only mean lost sales and profit, they also cause personnel and processing costs , for example to check the return and return it to inventory . According to a consumer survey by PwC Germany (2013), a good every third online shopper orders goods on the Internet at least occasionally, which he in all probability sends back to the retailer. In fact, almost a fifth of buyers do this frequently. The free right of return - retailers are only allowed to charge a return fee from June 2014 on goods worth over 40 euros - makes online shopping particularly attractive for many consumers, but it represents a significant cost burden for online retailers.


  • Detlef Spee / Stefanie Bühner: Returns management - a logistical challenge. Theory and practice for handling returns. HUSS-Verlag, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-944281-72-8 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Retoure  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Bundesverband E-Commerce und Versandhandel Deutschland (Ed.), Versandhandel in Deutschland - Eine Informationsschrift , 1988, p. 9
  2. Björn H. Asdecker, Returns Management in Mail Order , 2014, p. 111
  3. Inga Pollmeier, Returns Management in Distance Selling , 2012, p. 30
  4. Internet World Business of March 4, 2019, This is the number of returns in online retail worldwide
  5. Björn H. Asdecker, returns management by mail , 2014, p 202
  6. Willy Schneider / Alexander Hennig, Lexicon Key Figures for Marketing and Sales , 2008, p. 293
  7. German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ed.), 2010, p. 1
  8. Björn H. Asdecker, Returns Management in Mail Order Selling , 2014, p. 254
  9. Guide to online trading: Optimizing shipping and returns . Retrieved December 6, 2014.
  10. Claus Schünemann, learning fields of the bakery and confectionery -Verkauf- , 2006, ISBN 978-3-7734-0170-0 , p. 228, online .
  11. Allgemeine Bäcker-Zeitung of May 7, 2016, The high art of skillful returns management
  12. Statista, proportion of people in selected countries in Europe who returned goods ordered online in the past twelve months in 2018 , 2019
  13. Teresa Tropf: Every eighth online purchase is returned. In: Bitkom, December 27, 2018, accessed on January 4, 2019 .
  14. PwC Germany: Every third online shopper plans to return items when they buy . Frankfurt am Main, November 20, 2013; Retrieved January 5, 2014.