As we know, hassle-free returns are a very important part of the customer experience, with shoppers unlikely to make a repeat purchase if it is difficult for them to return unwanted goods. It is worth mentioning that almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents from a comScore study in 2012 said they looked at a seller's returns policy prior to making a purchase, and 62% had returned a product bought online. It is essential to know your customers' rights as consumers so that you can provide the highest level of customer service.
The New Consumer Rights
So, what’s new regarding returns and refunds? If a customer purchases an item that turns out to be faulty - whether the purchase was made online, in a high-street store, or at any other retailer - they are entitled to ask for it to be repaired, or to request and receive a full refund. In addition to this, the new Act now states that consumers can request a refund up to 30 days from the purchase date, and that the money must be returned to them within 14 days of the request (previously, the law was unclear about this time limit, defining it simply as 'a reasonable length of time'). So, even if a customer has bought a product more than 30 days ago, they are still entitled to a repair or replacement. If a repair is requested, businesses have one chance to make the repair; if, after this, the customer is still unhappy, he or she has a right to a refund. This right extends to six months after the purchase date. After six months, the customer still has the right to ask for a repair or a replacement, but the seller now also has the right to deduct some money for the use the customer has had out of the goods. There are some longer-term consumer protections, but they depend on the kind of product and the price paid. These protections can extend for up to six years in England and Wales, and five years in Scotland.
If a customer changes their mind about their purchase, i.e. if there is nothing actually wrong with it, they are not entitled to a refund. However, it is common practice to offer customers who do change their minds an exchange of equal value or a refund for goods that are in saleable condition. This practice is not enforced by law, and remains entirely at the discretion of each individual business.
Consumer Contracts Regulations – The right to cancel
Consumers who Buy goods online are also covered by the Distance Selling Regulations and the Consumer Contracts Regulations which provide further protections over and above the Consumer Rights Act. This is because a customer’s decision may be based on a brief description or a photograph – so what they receive isn't always quite what they’d expected. The Consumer Contracts Regulations give customers 14 calendar days from the day after they receive their goods to cancel. Many online retailers extend this even further. They are responsible for returning the item within 14 calendar days of cancelling and as mentioned above refunds must be paid within 14 calendar days after returning the goods, or evidence that they were returned.
If you are committed to providing the best customer service it is important to keep abreast of the latest consumer rights and selling regulations. Take the time to ensure your staff are aware of any policy updates so that they don't run the risk of short-changing customers or breaking the law.
Consumer Rights Act 2015 - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/15/contents/enacted
Consumer Contracts Regulations - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/3134/made
Distance Selling Regulations - https://www.gov.uk/online-and-distance-selling-for-businesses/overview