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Definition: Return Merchandise Authorization
Return Merchandise Authorization or RMA is an authorization code (numeric or alphanumeric) that is assigned to a product by the merchant to facilitate the return of the product under certain terms and conditions. The RMA indicates the customer/user has been authorized by the merchant or a representative of the company to return a particular product to the merchant/ company.
The use of an RMA helps in tracking the progress of a return- allowing both parties to identify the transaction by a single reference code. One basic reason behind using the RMA system is that the merchant sellers want their customers to discuss the return of a product rather than send it back directly and demand a refund. Many of the customer issues are solved during the communication for return- making the return unnecessary.
Every mail-order merchant has a return policy encompassing details as to permissible and acceptable terms of return, process of return, charges involved etc. While some companies may accept only defective items, some may be more open and favorable in their return policy. The return policy is often seen as a differentiator in customer service, especially for today’s e-commerce companies. The concept of an RMA is used extensively now especially on seller platforms like Amazon and Ebay where the RMA codes (or returns in general) may be authenticated by the parent site or individual seller.
How does the RMA system work?
• A customer calls in to start a return process or lodges a return request on a website
• The customer provides appropriate information regarding the order, e.g. order number, date of purchase, date of delivery, reasons for return etc.
• The seller/merchant reverts with further instructions and an RMA code if the buyer’s return request fits the parameters of the return policy.
• The customer can then return the product (refund being subjective to the condition of the items returned) with the Universal Product Code and/or Return Mail Label with the RMA code clearly mentioned.