12. August 2013
After customers expressed anger at their Amazon accounts being suspended without warning, it has become clear that Tchibo also closes accounts if consumers return too many products.
Tchibo account suspended
Amazon’s recent strategy of closing the accounts of those customers who return too many products has caused anger and frustration. Lawyers at Wilde Beuger Solmecke reached the conclusion that such closures are illegal.
It has now become clear that the online arm of Tchibo has been closing consumer accounts without warning for years.
In 2010 a Tchibo customer reported that her account had been closed without warning. It was only after she attempted to place an order and then pursued the company, that she received a letter informing her of the closure. The customer had generally ordered 2 to 3 items a year, sometimes returning all of them and sometimes keeping all of them.
The letter explained that the lady’s return rate was too high and that there was an obvious discrepancy between the customer’s expectations as to quality and the products offered by the company. As a result, the Tchibo had decided stop delivering products to the customer.
Similar to the Amazon closures, there was no indication that the suspension would only be temporary. The account had therefore seemingly been irreversible deleted. The consumer complained to Tchibo, but the shop remained firm.
Low return rate required
Three years on, and Tchibo is still closing customer accounts without warning.
One consumer recently informed Wilde Beuger Solmecke, that her account had been closed without warning. After requesting more information, the lady was told that she had a return rate of almost 80%.
The customer explained that clothes often span two sizes, for example 38/39. Therefore she needed to order several sizes in order to find the perfect fit. She managed to convince Tchibo to re-open her account. But she was warned that if her purchasing habits did not change, the company would permanently close her account.
It seems that closing online accounts of customers who return too many products is a somewhat broader practice than first thought.
Yet it surely cannot be in the interests of online businesses to create an atmosphere where consumers place fewer orders out of fear of having their accounts closed without warning.
It is becoming clear that in the long-term, new rules will be required to protect consumers from sudden and permanent account closures.
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