In response to pressure from the Society of Authors, the Authors Guild, and individuals, Amazon plans to change its ebook return policy, most notably de-activating self-service returns for any book read past 10%. This comes after viral TikTok videos encouraged refunds which harmed many authors’ earnings. The return policy reform is expected to take effect by the end of the year.
Amazon’s returns policy for ebooks currently allows readers to receive a full refund for up to seven days, even if they have read the full work. The Society of Authors says the use of this refund loophole has been encouraged by users on the social media platform TikTok, with videos on how to return books being viewed over 17 million times.
Amazon has informed the Authors Guild it plans to change its ebook return policy to restrict automatic returns to purchases where no more than 10 percent of the book has been read. The planned change will go into effect by the end of the year. Any customer who wishes to return an ebook after reading more than 10 percent will need to send in a customer service request, which will be reviewed by a representative to ensure that the return request is genuine and complies with Amazon’s policies against abuse. This process will create a strong deterrent against buying, reading, and returning ebooks within seven days, and readers who attempt to abuse the return policy will be penalized under Amazon’s policies. The Authors Guild and the Society of Authors, its counterpart organization in the U.K., had taken up this issue with Amazon’s senior executives earlier this year.
Scores of indie authors also advocated for this change. This was echoed by a petition on Change.org which attracted more than 78,000 signatures.
In an email to the SoA and the Authors’ Guild on September 21 David Naggar – Amazon’s Vice President of Books & Kindle Content – said, “we do hear all you have said over the course of our conversations on this topic and are planning to make meaningful changes … Most notably, we will de-activate self-service returns for any book read past 10%, adding substantial friction to the process.”
While stressing that in Amazon’s view returns on Kindle products continue to be low, with “no discernible spikes”, Naggar confirmed that the company will introduce the change to all the platforms that support Kindle, including eReaders, computers and smartphones. He said their developers have, “reprioritized existing product roadmaps … and believe this improvement can be implemented by the end of the year”.
[Based on press releases.]