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Raising the Standard: Consumer Rights

https://vimeo.com/735460669

Read a transcript of this video

In many ways, good customer service is about good communication.

As a trader, making sure that your customers get the information they need when they need it, and are able to ask questions and discuss their concerns, can be beneficial to your business as well as being a legal requirement.

Having a basic understanding of consumer protection law is a really handy way of protecting your business, keeping customers happy, and boosting your reputation within the local community.

A good way of getting to grips with the essentials of consumer protection law is to think about it in terms of the ‘three Cs’:

  • Contracts
  • Cancellations
  • Complaints

Contracts

All contracts must include:

  1. A description of the product or services you will provide.
  2. Your full business name and address.
  3. Full pricing information, including the cost of work to be carried out and any additional charges.
  4. Information about your after-sales care and complaints-handling procedures.
  5. Cancellation information.

Failure to include one or more of these pieces of information may result in the contract not being enforceable – and may even result in you not being paid for work you have carried out.

There are three main types of contract: ‘on-premises’, ‘off-premises’ and ‘distance’.

Since Trading Standards Checked scheme members often visit their customers’ homes to give quotations prior to carrying out work, they are probably more likely to enter into off-premises contracts. As the name suggests, these are contracts signed away from your business premises.

Cancellations

Off-premises contracts provide your customer with the right to cancel your agreement with them within 14 days of signing the contract. If you have already started work within that period, the customer is still obliged to pay for it however.

The 14-day cancellation period includes weekends and public holidays, but rolls over to the following working day if it happens to expire on one of those days.

To cancel a contract, the customer must give a clear indication – preferably in writing – that they wish to do so.

It always makes sense to offer a customer the option of having the work done at a later date if possible. Be flexible and receptive to changes in your customers’ personal circumstances – it’s likely to make them recommend you to their friends and neighbours, even if they end up not using your services themselves.

Complaints

It isn’t always possible to keep every customer happy. If and when you do receive a complaint, see it as an opportunity to improve your business. An unsatisfied customer who feels their voice is being heard, and who is treated with professionalism and respect, could still be a customer who comes back to you in the future.

Similarly, online reviews – even bad ones – are great for helping you identify where your business is getting things wrong, so you can start making steps to putting them right.

There are five key elements to an effective complaint handling process:

  1. Acknowledge the complaint; even if you can’t offer an immediate solution, it’s important that the customer knows their voice has been heard.
  2. Identify the problem as promptly as possible.
  3. Look for resolution and inform the customer of what that resolution is going to be.
  4. Record the complaint and how you dealt with it.
  5. Follow up with the customer to make sure that they’re satisfied.

Kent County Council’s Trading Standards Business Advice Team is on hand to help you with any aspects of Consumer rights law that you may be unsure of. They can offer guidance specific to your business, including help with contracts.

The service is available as part of your Trading Standards Checked scheme membership, along with a whole range of other resources on the Raising the Standard: Traders for a Safer Kent website.

This resource is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.