Is it that time of year again?
I swear Black Friday creeps up on me every time. I’ve just done with Halloween costumes, where to watch fireworks for Guy Fawkes and what to bake for Children in Need and here I am wondering what to buy everyone for Christmas. Then along comes Black Friday and there’s so many offers, I hardly know where to start!
If you’re a trader, right now you’ll be busier than an elf on December 23rd, but it’s a good idea to spend some time making sure your terms and policies are in order so that you’re well placed to deal with customer queries, cooling off and returns. Here’s a quick check list for you to look at when building up to marking-down next week:
Goods sold must be fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality; be as described; match any sample provide; be installed correctly; and conform with the contract to supply digital content.
Your terms and conditions must be fair. For example if you charge an admin fee to receive or process returns, you must be upfront about this in your terms. You must provide a returns & and refunds policy, so point your clients to it on your website. If you offer customers a promotion or incentive to buy, the terms of that promotion are deemed included in the sale contract, so if you offer an extended warranty if they ‘buy now’, that must be given, no catches.
3.Was it something I said?
If goods are faulty or not as they were described, a customer has 30 days to return them and get a replacement, repair or a refund. If they choose repair or replacement and these do not work either, the customer can seek a refund or keep the goods and ask for a price reduction. Reasons for returns are key to return timelines: the short-term right to replace/repair/refund ends 30 days after the date of original order. After that the consumer can still return faulty goods anytime in the next 6 months and request a repair or replacement.
4.This time it’s personal
If goods have been personalised, for example made to measure or have incorporated a customers’ name, image or own goods into them, the customer is NOT entitled to a refund and you are not obliged to give one unless the goods are faulty. If they are faulty, a customer can ask for a repair, but not a refund or return.
5.I’ve had a better offer!
Customers have a right to cancel online purchases within 14 calendar days by giving notice to the retailer and they do not need to give a reason for cancelling (though you can ask). If you have sent the goods out and the customer has received them, the cancellation period runs from the date of receipt of delivery by the customer. By law, retailers must provide customers with a cancellation form, but the customer does not have to use that to cancel and order. If you do not provide the customer with information about the ‘right to cancel’, the cancellation period will be extended by up to a year. This is meant to be a penalty, so much better to get it right first time.
6.Refunding the same way payment was made
When giving refunds, you must refund the customer using the same means of payment as used for the original purchase so you may need to take card details again. If payment was made by voucher, you can decide whether to refund in vouchers or in cash; if you choose to refund a voucher back onto a payment card, it should be made back on to the card used to pay for the voucher.
7.Give me back my money!
Got to give money back? Refunds must be given within 14 days of cancellation of the service or receipt of the goods from the customer. Refunds must include the standard delivery charge made (no need to refund special delivery or next day delivery fees but mention this in your terms & returns policy). If the customer has used the goods, then you can deduct a reasonable amount from the refund to cover usage – but beware of reselling those ‘used’ goods unwittingly to other customers as ‘new’.
8.‘It’s In the Post’
Customers should return goods from order cancelled within 14 days of cancelling the order, unless you offer to collect the goods from them. Customer must bear the cost of returning the goods – unless the retailer agrees to pay or has failed to give the customer notice of costs of returns.
The Consumer Contracts Act and Consumer Rights Regulations requires content to be fit for the purpose, be as it was described and defect free, but refunds aren’t the starting point for digital content that isn’t fit for purpose or is defective. If digital content does not comply, the customer can seek a repair, replacement or reduction in the price only. Refunds aren’t an option for digitally supplied goods/services.
10.The customer is not always right – but let them think they are!
You might have a complaints procedure, in which case do publicise it and follow it, that way everyone knows where they stand. If a customer complains on social media, face up to it calmly, deal with it promptly and, almost most important of all, politely! There is no point getting into a Twitter spat with someone who wants to air their views about your product or service. Deal with the product or service first and then, when that’s done you can point out if the review was factually incorrect. If the complaint is personal, or goes beyond what you might consider ‘normal’ (it does sometimes happen), is persistent above what is required, or if it’s part of the hideous trend of flaming or trolling, you can always check with us if you need to block the sender or report them.
Wrapping it up
Your adverts, terms and returns policies need to be clear and transparent and you must be aware that any claims you make about products can become terms of your customer contract, even you didn’t intend them to. Follow the above and you should ‘stay in the black’, long past next Friday.
For more information on getting your terms and conditions right, or queries about the Consumer Rights Act, contact Joanne Frears