Do I need a returns policy?
Some form of returns policy will help you to comply with applicable law – such the distance selling rules and other consumer rights legislation. In addition to legal compliance, a returns policy may help with customer communications and confidence. A generous set of policies will promote customer satisfaction and may in some markets constitute a competitive advantage. They might also reduce customer support overhead.
Is a returns policy the same thing as a refund policy?
These terms are often used interchangeably, although the emphasis is different. For instance, for a services you would usually refer to a refund policy rather than a returns policy, as there may be nothing to return. If goods are to be exchanged upon return, you might also call the document an exchange policy – but you need to be careful here not to abridge consumer rights.
How do I write a returns policy?
You can write a policy yourself, but you will need some legal expertise to do so – especially if the provisions of the policy will interact with consumer rights rules and other legal protections. Usually, you would be better using a template prepared by a lawyer or – if it is commercially justifiable – asking a lawyer to prepare the document for you.
Why does this template not cover both statutory and non-statutory rights?
There are few good reasons for treating statutory and non-statutory rights separately.
First, in general it is not possible to abridge statutory rights. Specifying ways of exercising statutory rights will often amount to just such an abridgement. Accordingly, if the returns policy were extended to cover statutory and non-statutory rights, the specific returns instructions would to some extent need to be framed as requests or suggestions.
Second, while one of the main purposes of offering a non-statutory returns policy is to help with marketing efforts, businesses should not present basic statutory protections as being a special benefit of dealing with them. If you combine your policies on statutory and discretionary returns, you risk accidentally tripping over this prohibition.
Third, in my experience, a combined policy covering both complex statutory rights and broad-brush contractual rights (which usually depend to a significant degree on retail discretion) is very often a messy synthesis requiring high-level legal expertise to write and interpret.
There are situations where a combined policy is appropriate. For instance, if a discretionary policy is changing cooling-off periods but otherwise closely tracking the distance selling rights, then it makes sense to offer a combined policy.
What other legal documents might I need?
We supply a range of ecommerce documents via Website Contracts. Versions of each of these documents are also available free of charge on this website.