Although we imagine your lampshades are amazing, there may be some circumstances when a customer wants to return their shade. Dealing with returns and refunds can be a tricky business, so in today’s Business Expertise and Advice for Makers post, we’re going to explore the legislation on refunding customers, based on the lampshades you make and the method you use to sell them. We'll also look at customer returns and how to ensure your customers are clear on your refund policy, hopefully making it easier for you and your customer to deal with this in the future.
The Legal Side of Offering Refunds
There are a couple of pieces of legislation you’ll need to be familiar with mainly The Consumer Contracts Regulations (which replaced the ‘distance selling’ legislation in 2014) and the Consumer Rights Act. Both can apply to your lampshade making business and dependant on how your sell your lampshades and what type of lampshades you sell, this the legislation may affect you in different ways. For this reason, we’ve broken these down and will explain this bit by bit.
As the majority of lampshade makers sell online, customers who purchase their lampshades online (or via mail order or over the phone) ‘have the right to cancel their order for a limited time even if the goods are not faulty. Sales of this kind are known as ‘distance selling’.
The Gov.uk website page, Accepting returns and giving refunds: the law states the following applies to businesses that are ‘distance selling’ and for clarity this applies to lampshades that are sold online as ‘off the shelf’ not those that are custom made;
You must offer a refund to customers if they’ve told you within 14 days of receiving their goods that they want to cancel. They have another 14 days to return the goods once they’ve told you.
You must refund the customer within 14 days of receiving the goods back. They do not have to provide a reason.
In the case of repairing or replacing a lampshade:
If a customer has ‘accepted’ an item, but later discovers a fault, you may have to repair or replace it. The customer can still reject the item after it’s been repaired or replaced.
Following legislation laid out in The Consumer Rights Act:
All retailers must foot the bill for damaged or faulty items returned within 30 days of purchase.
In the case of a damaged or faulty lampshade arriving with the customer, this also includes the lampshade maker covering the cost of the return postage.
Which.co.uk also has this useful advice to add on refunding the cost of delivery:
The trader has to refund the basic delivery cost of getting the goods to you in the first place, so if you opted for enhanced service e.g. guaranteed next day, it only has to refund the basic cost.
Selling in a Shop or Craft Fair
Different to selling an item online, legislation sets out a different set of rules for physical selling, due to the buyer being able to see and handle the product before purchasing. A lampshade maker does not have to refund a customer if the customer:
no longer wants the item (for example because it’s the wrong size or colour) unless they bought it without seeing it
knew the item was faulty when they bought it
damaged the item by trying to repair it themselves or getting someone else to do it (though they may still have the right to a repair, replacement or partial refund)
Note, for physical sales, it’s important for both yourself as the seller and the customer to provide a receipt, therefore remember to take receipt book or receipt cards to craft fairs, so you can fulfil this obligation.
If you are making lampshades occasionally to sell privately and have not yet established a business, then the 14-day online return requirements do not apply. We found this handy guide for those lampshade makers who are selling privately via online platforms - Selling on online marketplaces - Citizen’s Advice Bureau
Custom Made Lampshade and products
Now that you’re more familiar with when customer returns are acceptable there’s one more notable exception when the legislation discussed above does not apply – when the customer orders a customer made or personalised lampshade or product.
To put it simply, there is no 14-day ‘cooling off' period for:
personalised items and custom-made items, for example curtains’
The only exception to the above is if the lampshade is faulty.
It’s important as a seller that you make the customer's refund and return rights clear and although the law protects you for custom made shades, it helps to avoid any difficulties further down the line.
Daisy warren of Shady Daisy Co, shares this tip for making her customers aware aware
‘When I do custom orders, I always ensure I ask that they purchase a brand new listing (on Etsy) which has ‘CUSTOM FOR...’ written on it, and the regulations attached to it.
Packaging guidelines for returns
If you’ve agreed to a lampshade return with your customer, then getting your lampshade back in one piece can be as important as the process itself. If the customer is paying for the return setting expectations of the delivery method the customer uses, packaging and the condition that the lampshade arrives in, can help you protect your profit margins, as you’ll be counting on selling the lampshade again once returned, to cover your costs.
Sonia Rycerz, a member of our Lampshade Makers Facebook Group says;
‘When a customer asks to send back a lampshade I make sure they know that they are responsible for any damage or loss and that a refund is provided as long at the lampshade comes back in immaculate condition.’
Jane Warren of the Lampshade Loft states this on her website, which covers all eventualities:
Goods must be returned in their original packaging, using a guaranteed and trackable delivery service for which the buyer is responsible for paying for and must arrive in perfect order. If you wish to return any item for any reason, please contact us in advance so that we are ready to process your return as soon as possible. Please be aware that the large lampshades cost around £10 to be sent via Royal Mail's Parcelforce service, so it’s good to be sure before you order!
While there is no legal requirement for lampshade makers to state or display information about their customer returns and refunds policy, unless they decide to provide the consumer with more than the law requires, this is very useful for setting customer expectations.
Things to consider when putting this into writing are:
Cancellation terms – so for online sellers 14 day period for the customer to cancel, and then 14 days for them to return the lampshade to you
Details of who pays for the cost of returning items
Without any clear guidance, the customer may refer to the legislation and this could cost you money, particularly if you don’t tell the customer who is responsible for paying for returns.
Omitting these details could mean that you as the seller are liable for the return costs and which could result in cancellation rights being extended by up to a year.
Here are some ideas on how you could pass on your refunds information:
Write this into any description of the lampshade on your website
Include this clearly in any email correspondence you have with the customer
Add this to your bespoke or custom made pages of your website
Consider printing a friendly and well-meaning version of your policies and popping it in the box when you send your lampshade to the customer
There's much more reading to be done around returns and refunds and while we are not business advisors, there are many who fulfil the role well! Grab yourself a cuppa and take a look at the links we found useful:
Citizens Advice Bureau Summaries of your consumer rights:
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