Frequently Asked Questions
About The Retail Equation (TRE) Return Authorization
The Retail Equation (TRE) is a software and analytics company headquartered in Irvine, California, USA. It is a service provider that helps retail companies detect and prevent potentially fraudulent returns and reduce return policy abuse.
If a retail company has problems with return fraud or return policy abuse, it can hire TRE to help prevent the problems. TRE Return Authorization is the software used to recommend for that retailer to approve, warn, or deny a return.
A warning allows you to complete your return but limits your ability to make another return. A denial means your return will not be accepted, and future returns may be declined. TRE assesses each time you make a return to determine if the recommendation to warn or deny is still necessary based on data provided by the retailer and the retailer’s return policies.
Retailers have the option to permanently block any consumer from making returns if that consumer has a history of fraudulent returns behavior.
TRE Return Authorization examines the purchase and return data from a specific retailer. It examines the in-store and online transactions and connects them with an ID number—such as a form of payment or government-issued ID. The system then analyzes that consumer’s return history with that retailer to identify activity that appears to be fraudulent or abusive or in violation of the retailer’s return policies.
About 1% of the time, TRE will recommend to a retailer that a consumer be given a warning or that the return be denied. Refused returns generally fall into two categories:
– Returns that break that retailer’s basic return policy such as asking for a return after the allowed return period, returning a non-returnable item, making a return without a receipt, or making more returns than a retail company allows within a specified time.
– Returns that make the consumer’s return behavior at that retailer indicate return fraud or abuse, such as returning an item after removing some of its parts.
The refusal of a return does not mean a consumer’s return is fraudulent or abusive, only that the consumer’s return history at that retailer shows patterns often associated with such behavior. See below for instructions on contesting a denial that you believe to be in error.
To reduce the likelihood of being warned or denied on a future return, consumers should consider the factors listed above and try to reduce their frequency of returns, reduce their return dollar amounts, and return within the retailer’s return time limits.
When TRE Return Authorization captures information from an ID, this is to ensure accurate consumer identification. The data that is captured and how it is collected varies by applicable regulations and retailer discretion.
Typically, this information includes:
– Government issued identification number and expiration date
– Date of birth
– TRE does NOT collect or utilize gender, race, nationality, physical characteristics, marital status, or payment card information.
Data collected by TRE is stored within state-of-the art, secure data centers located in the continental United States, the European Union, or in the Microsoft Azure cloud.
This varies from one retailer to the next. The factors that TRE may use for a given retailer include:
– The frequency of returns at that retailer
– Return value at that retailer
– Whether the return at that retailer is receipted or non-receipted
– Purchase history at that retailer
TRE does NOT use any of the following factors in evaluating returns:
– Physical characteristics
– Marital status
You can contact TRE by following the instructions on www.TheRetailEquation.com home page. You can get:
– Answers about your return data at that retailer.
– A Return Activity Report (RAR) that shows all your return transactions at that retailer.
– Instructions on filing an inquiry if the Return Activity Report contains errors.
Background on Return Fraud and Abuse
Return fraud generally involves stealing or forgery. For example, a person might return stolen merchandise to make money, steal or falsify receipts to enable excessive returns, or use merchandise returns to convert bad checks to cash.
Return abuse involves purchasing merchandise without intending to keep it. An example is buying clothes, wearing them for Instagram photos, and then returning them.
Return fraud and abuse harms consumers and workers—not just retail companies. The US retail industry lost $25+ billion to return fraud in 2020. Retailers must increase their prices or reduce staff to cover those losses. In 2020, return fraud/abuse was equivalent to 741,300+ jobs and cost states a total of $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion in lost sales taxes.
More statistics are available in the “Consumer Returns in the Retail Industry” report issued in conjunction with the National Retail Federation.
Yes. We estimate that more than half of fraudulent returns involve some sort of counterfeit, “found,” or re-used receipts.
Benefits of The Retail Equation (TRE) Return Authorization
The system benefits consumers because it speeds up the return process and enables consistent and objective enforcement of return policies at each retailer. In addition, TRE helps retailers save money and reduce waste. Those savings can be passed on to consumers.
TRE helps a retailer uniformly enforce their return policy to promote fairness and reduce return fraud.
Relationship Between TRE Return Authorization and Retailers
Please see the applicable retailer’s return policy for detailed rules and requirements for making a return or exchange at their store.
No, the system does not share consumer data among retailers.
No, TRE does not share data with any credit reporting agencies or similar organizations like potential creditors, employers, insurers, landlords, and government agencies.