Next Breaks The rules

High street retailer Next has been breaking online shopping regulations by failing to refund delivery charges for goods that have been purchased online but then returned by customers.

An investigation by the BBC has revealed that the retailer has been defying the terms of the Distance Selling Regulations, introduced in 2000, which protect online shoppers.

The regulations state that customers are entitled to a full refund including the initial delivery charge if they return goods within seven days.

Next has been charging customers for delivery costs, even when the goods have been returned within a week.

"During the past three years, Next has not offered a refund of the delivery charge," said the retailer in a statement.

"This was in line with our interpretation of the Distance Selling Directive. However, following clarification from the European Court of Justice in April this year on interpretation of the Directive, Next is in the process of implementing the necessary changes to ensure that delivery charges will be refunded."

However, the spokesman said that customers have not had to pay for returning the goods, and the regulations do not state that retailers must offer free returns.

Trading Standards Institute's operations manager Andy Foster said: "If there is a failure to refund delivery charges, that is clearly wrong and we will interpret that to be a breach of contract."

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