We recently covered the latest EU sweep of websites in which it found a surprising number of errant websites with regards conforming to the Directive on Consumer Rights. In the UK we have the 2015 Consumer Rights Act which extends the provisions of the Directive. Regardless of what happens with Brexit, it is probable that the Act will control email marketing and online sales for years to come.
Most companies seem to have had an energetic stab at complying with the Act which means the playing field is nearly level. For some of us, our main competitors might have been a bit lethargic. The good news is that many consumers tend to notice these failures and it would do no harm to make them more obvious.
The first thing is to ensure your compliance with the Act, and not just in spirit but following the letter of the law. Check what your competitors have ignores and ensure that your systems comply. Then start to advertise.
The main provisions of the Act as they relate to online and email marketing sales are:
- That good be of satisfactory quality, are fit for their designed purpose and are as described.
- Digital content now includes software that is ‘free’ with other services or items as well as supplied for a price.
- Services must be delivered with reasonable care and skill and within a reasonable time.
- A statement made by a company at the time the consumer is making the decision to buy is a binding contractual term.
- If clicking a button commits the customer to buying an item or service, then it must be clear at the time.
The provisions that are open to exploitation are those where there is a time limit. If your competitor’s terms and conditions are not clear on their website then emphasise that your customers:
- Have the right to return an item without question up to 14 days after they receive the goods.
- Can demand a refund rather than replacement within 30 days if goods are of unsatisfactory quality.
- That they will receive the item within 30 days unless otherwise agrees.
- Non-premium rate telephone complaint line.
These are all legal requirements, although many companies do not provide information specifying their obligations under the Act. If your main competitor does not, then emphasise that customers should check that other companies comply. If they are in doubt, they won’t bother to check, but just go elsewhere.
We will cover your returns policy and processes on a later article, but in the meantime, consider extending the customers’ rights where they are time limited. What’s wrong with 21 days for without question return or 60 days for a refund where goods are faulty? Work out how much that will cost but counterbalance with the customers you retain.
Another option is to reassure your customers that, with the present disruption to postal deliveries, both threatened and actual, you will, rather generously, increase the time limit for returns.
It is not all about price; how you deal with dissatisfied customers can be a clincher.