Major consumer rights changes became law at the end of 2013 and they are likely to affect most UK consumer-facing businesses. Yet according to a survey by Eversheds, two-thirds of UK business leaders are unaware of the changes and over a third are unsure how the changes will impact on their business.
The EU Consumer Rights Directive was brought into statute on 13th December 2013. It aims to simplify consumer rights so that consumers are clearer about their rights when purchasing goods and services.
The change in rules will obviously impact upon UK businesses — but how? Here’s a simple guide explaining how businesses will have to adapt over the next few months so that by June 2014 (when the rules are enforced) businesses are in line with the law:
Businesses will now be expected to explicitly disclose the total cost of the product or service as well as any extra fees. Consumers shopping online will not be liable for any charges or other costs if they were not properly informed before they placed their order.
Businesses must give customers 14 days to change their minds and withdraw from a sales contract, so customers can return goods for any reason if they change their minds. If the business doesn’t state this clearly, the return period must be extended to a year. The period will begin from the moment the customer receives the goods instead of from the conclusion of the contract, which is how it currently stands.
Businesses must refund consumers for the product, including the cost of delivery, if the customer returns the product within the statutory period.
If businesses want the consumer to cover the cost of returning the goods, they must state this clearly beforehand, otherwise the business must pay.
Businesses will now be banned from charging customers more for paying by credit card than what it actually costs for them to provide this means of payment.
Under the new rules, businesses will no longer be able to use premium rate 09 numbers or higher rate 084 or 087 numbers for their customer services or complaints lines. Switching to national rate numbers will lower the call costs for mobile users.
For those companies that still want to provide a non-geographic number, they can simply switch to an 03 number. This will provide them with the benefits of an 08 number, but it will allow consumers to call from mobiles at low rates, as the minutes are included in monthly bundles.
The same set-up can be used with 03 numbers and any virtual geographic (01 or 02) numbers. What’s more, those using an 084 number will be able to switch to the equivalent 034 number, so they only need to change one digit to comply with the guidelines.
Katherine Evans is PR and marketing executive at 03NumberShop.
Follow these ten commandments on customer service and you won't go far wrong — our thanks to Moneypenny for sharing this brilliant infographic with us.
Driving awareness is a key challenge for any small business. As a budget-efficient channel, PR is often called upon to help achieve this objective and there are plenty of PR experts out there that can help. But I do think business owners can do much themselves, particularly in B2B or service sector. Many business owners shy away from PR — here is a step-by-step guide to getting some coverage for your business:
Christina Richardson is a business marketing specialist, mentor and founder of The Nurture Network. She is also co-founder of the Brand Gathering community, helping young businesses to grow by working together.
Whether you’re selling antique furnishings or secondhand computer accessories, there’s plenty of money to be made from the cyber sector — and it can be effective to use a site like eBay to sell to customers.
But before you go in head first, there are a few tricks you should take note of. In particular, liquidating inventory can become a sticking point for businesses in the digital marketplace — that’s why it’s imperative to understand the difference between the genuine value and the perceived value of an item; and marking up your goods appropriately.
It can be tempting to snap up deals when you are buying stock but before you know it, you’ll have accumulated a vast amount of goods that may not seem like quite such a bargain. That’s why it’s important to bear in mind that you’re not buying for you, you’re buying for your customers.
Establish who your target audience is and then research their buying habits. Take a look on eBay and see what prices are being listed for items similar to yours. A helpful feature is eBay’s buying formats option, which is separated into two categories: Auction and Buy It Now. Simply select the latter, and the auctions will display a fixed price for that particular product. Then you should aim to price your item within that same costing range.
You can also take a look through any auctions that have ended. This allows you not only to see previous sales for products currently not up for auction (that you could add to your own range), but also to identify items that were priced too high and that failed to sell (shown in red).
It’s also imperative to take into account your postage and packaging costs and assess which delivery rates and services to use — again you can research through other eBay traders. All too often, online retailers underestimate the costs and effort involved in shifting their supplies, so set realistic targets and bear in mind any bank holidays that could affect delivery times.
Over time you’ll be able to judge for yourself just how well your market is performing and gauge just how much people are willing to pay.
The secret to maintaining a successful online business is to have a steady stock that can be resold for a profit. Don’t invest too much time into a larger-than-necessary inventory, as some items may quickly go out of fashion and not make as much as you had hoped. By striking the right balance, you’ll soon become an expert on eBay.
Written on behalf of Parcel2Go.com.
It’s all too easy to sit at your laptop and write something in the heat of the moment — a complaining email or even a tweet or Facebook update having a moan about something. But these online moments could land you and your business in court.
Just because you are writing something in the comfort of your office or sat on your sofa in front of the TV doesn’t mean it might not have serious legal implications. It’s all too easy to respond to something in an instant — post a comment here, have a rant on Twitter there — but you should consider whether your actions might be stepping outside the boundaries of the law.
One tiny comment can have far reaching effects in terms of who sees it and what it means for you or your business. Your tweets, status updates and reviews are out there in the public domain, for all the world to see, and unfortunately, some may come back to haunt you. If you think the internet offers a free rein to say whatever you want, you need to think again.
If you have written a comment on a social media site, on your own or a competitor’s website or on a review site such as TripAdvisor or FreeIndex, you could be committing libel. Recently, there have been several high profile libel cases surrounding Twitter, including Sally Bercow’s tweet referencing Lord McAlpine.
The fact that the UK High Court found that her tweet was libelous shows that you don’t even have to explicitly defame someone for it to represent libel. Justice Tugendhat ruled that innuendo was equally damaging, carrying the “same effect” as the natural meaning of words.
Sally Bercow said: “Today’s ruling should be seen as a warning to all social media users. Things can be held to be seriously defamatory, even when you do not intend them to be defamatory and do not make any express accusation. I have learned my own lesson the hard way.”
It has been reported that online libel cases have doubled in recent years due to the social media explosion, so don’t think that social media is still a grey area in the eyes of the law — it’s really not. Your bite-sized tweets, status updates and comments on social networks (personal and business) are all covered by UK libel and defamation laws.
Even search giant Google has found to its cost that online defamation can take many forms. It has been sued several times because of its auto-complete feature, which whilst a useful tool for most of us, has been found to link people’s names with offensive or misleading terms, resulting in expensive lawsuits.
UK law is very clear on libel: anyone who makes a defamatory comment in published material about an identifiable person (ie someone named, pictured, or otherwise alluded to) that causes loss to business or reputation has committed libel. As the Sally Bercow case shows, a person does not even have to make a direct allegation, as UK libel law equally covers insinuation and implication. All social media users need to be aware of this.
Unlike criminal law where the burden of proof lies with the accuser, with UK libel law a defamatory statement is presumed to be false, unless the defendant can prove it’s the truth.
If you are in any doubt about what you can say online, take a look at this useful article Can I write whatever I want online? but my advice (and I’m not a lawyer I hasten to add) is never tweet or comment online in anger as it may land you (and your business) in a lawsuit!
It’s nothing new and it’s not a revelation, so why are so many smaller organisations still shying away from doing business online?
A good website only has positive effects on your customers and your business. But if you’re still not convinced your business needs to get online, here are a few good reasons to change your mind.
Let’s start strong with some facts and figures:
Without a good website, you could be missing out on thousands or even millions of new customers. The first step in the buying process for many potential customers is to look you up online. Your website is your online shop and your customers are waiting to walk in.
Your online business is open 24/7. So there’s another advantage to a quality online presence; you’ll be attracting customers, creating buzz, providing information and making money ... literally as you sleep. Selling your products and your brand has never been so flexible, as customers can choose where and when they want to buy.
Picture the scenario a “few” years back. Mr Smith walks into his favourite local store, the owner knows Mr Smith very well, knows what he usually buys, what he does for a living and what he thinks of the shop overall. Things haven’t actually changed that much.
With some basic online tricks and tools you can also get to know your customers very well indeed. Through your website and social media pages you can get feedback, find out what people usually buy from you, how they use your website and what they think of your business.
All this helps you tailor your online shop window, improve your services and gain and retain customers.
There are loads more reasons to set up a website. And the best thing? It’s easy to do and it’s not expensive. Use simple web design software and you’ll find out just how easy it is to create a professional website without any training or experience.
Quite simply, a decent website will help improve your business, give your customers greater access to your products, services and location, while helping you build a stronger base, where you can attract more customers every day.
Dale Cook is the technical product manager at Serif.