Regardless of the industry or sector in which a company is trading, customers looking for a refund or exchange is something that all businesses will have to encounter at some point during their regular trading activities. Up until recently it is likely that most companies would have had operated with their own returns policies in place, relying on flexibility in consumer rights law and turning to generally accepted practices within their industry on how best to manage customer returns. However this is now no longer the case as new consumer protection measures introduced this month have outlined clear guidelines regarding customer refunds that businesses now must legally adhere to moving forward.
Prior to the 1st October 2015, consumer rights regarding refunds were very much open to interpretation, simply stating that consumers were only entitled to refunds for a “reasonable time” after their initial purchase. Depending on what was being bought and from whom, this reasonable time could have been 7 days, two weeks, 30 days or anytime within the first year after the customer made their purchase. However as of the 1st October 2015, new measures have come into effect under the Consumer Rights Act to make the law clearer and easier to understand than it was previously. This new Consumer Rights Act states that goods:
- Must be of satisfactory quality, based on what a reasonable person would expect, taking into account the price
- Must be fit for purpose
- Must meet the expectations of the consumer
If this is not the case and the goods purchased from a UK-based retailer are deemed to be faulty, then consumers are now legally entitled to either have the goods repaired or claim a full refund. The Act states that a full refund can be claimed up to 30 days after the purchase has been made and money must be returned within 14 days after the refund has been issued. Even if the product was bought more than 30 days ago, if the item is faulty the consumer is still entitled to a repair or replacement. The retailer has one chance to make this repair after the 30 day period has lapsed and if the consumer is still unhappy with the goods following the repair attempt, they can ask for a full refund up until 6 months after the initial purchase.
How Can You Improve Your Returns Processes?
The Consumer Rights Act also covers legislation for second-hand goods bought from retailers trading on sites like eBay, Amazon, Rakuten, etc. as well as digital goods like music downloads, games and eBooks. You can get more information on The Consumer Rights Act 2015 on the dedicated Business Companion page HERE.
With all businesses affected in some way by these law changes, it is vital that companies use the new Consumer Rights Act as a catalyst to look into changes that can be made to their existing returns processes. With more liability placed on retailers and greater entitlements rightfully offered to consumers, these law changes aren’t a simple case of businesses adjusting their returns policy accordingly and updating all corresponding literature, but rather a case of businesses evaluating all returns handling procedures to see where improvements are needed.
Although these clearer laws regarding refunds will help businesses to better serve their customers, if changes to implement these correctly are not properly managed then providing refunds, repairs or exchanges to customers under this new Consumer Rights Act can impact quite negatively on business operations. Not only is overall profitability affected by returns, but if volumes are not handled cost-effectively and processes ineffectively controlled, then additional company expenses can also be incurred. Businesses also trading online will then have another level of complexity that requires careful consideration as goods will either need to be posted back by or collected from customers. Therefore in order to successfully manage returns handling under this new Consumer Rights Act, it is important for businesses to ensure they have tight controls and full visibility over all aspects of returns activity in place.
Structured Management Of Returns With OrderWise
With the OrderWise Returns module, businesses are provided with a structured method of managing returns from both suppliers and customers, ensuring policies outlined under the new Consumer Rights Act can be effectively upheld with resolutions also efficiently delivered. Whilst preserving the very highest service levels with customers, businesses can ensure that refunds are processed securely within the timescales required and the relevant credits, debits, stock adjustments, repairs, replacements or write offs are handled in an accurate, streamlined manner. Whether goods are being returned in person and require immediate processing, will be sent back or collected at later date, OrderWise Returns will cater for each scenario both simply and logically.
Looking to manage returns processes for orders received online? Not a problem. OrderWise Returns gives users the ability to print out customer returns labels so that goods can be easily returned to the required stock location should they be deemed unwanted, damaged or faulty. Additionally returns collection address details can be recorded, collection notes printed and instructions passed on to staff for simple, accurate management of customer returns collections. With 12 reports also included as standard to provide businesses with invaluable insight into customers frequently returning items, the reasons for it and common trends for specific goods, OrderWise Returns offers the full visibility and detailed recording of returns operations for which businesses strive.
So with the Consumer Rights Act providing greater understanding as to what customers are entitled to with regards to returns, it is important for companies to use these new law changes coming into effect as a reason to look into how their returns processes can be adjusted accordingly to not only be compliant with this new law, but also better serve their customers too.
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