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A crucial policy that your business needs to handle deliveries is a shipping policy. This policy outlines how you will facilitate sending customers their orders if they need to be delivered. A convenient and accessible shipping process will often be a point of goodwill for customers, so it is worth investing some time making sure it is as efficient as possible. Customers will favour:

  • convenience;
  • transparency;
  • reasonable delivery costs; and
  • accessibility.

You can also combine your shipping policy with your returns policy, detailing how your business handles customer returns, and when customers can get a remedy. This article will explain: 

  • what legal aspects of a shipping policy you need to know; and
  • issues you should cover in your shipping policy.

Meeting Your Legal Obligations

No matter how you decide to structure your shipping policy or what content it covers, you must meet your consumer law obligations for customer deliveries. For shipping, this generally entails:

  • making sure goods arrive safely and in good condition;
  • deliveries being within a reasonable time frame;
  • handling customer complaints about deliveries; and
  • providing a remedy if items are damaged in transit.

If you organise your products’ delivery to customers, you are their first point of contact if there is an issue with that delivery. You cannot refuse to deal with customer complaints. If the product is damaged, or never arrived, you need to give a customer a remedy. This is in the form of a:

  • repair;
  • replacement; or
  • refund.

If delivery is likely to be delayed somehow, you need to notify the customer. As long as you give them an applicable time frame that the package is supposed to arrive in, you will not break any of your consumer guarantees despite the delay.

Working With a Carrier

How you decide to deliver your products to customers will affect what you need to put in your shipping policy. If you are a small-scale business and want to handle orders personally, then you have the option of facilitating deliveries yourself. This can be time-consuming, so another option is to outsource your shipping to a dedicated carrier business. They will handle:

  • storage;
  • packing; and
  • delivery.

However, you are still responsible for customer service. If a customer complains or there is a delivery issue, you are the one who is responsible for dealing with it. If the carrier causes the problem, you will likely have contractual remedies available if you suffer a loss. Ensure any contract you sign with a carrier covers what happens in these instances.

Things to Cover in Your Shipping Policy

Carrier
Detail whether you use a third-party carrier or courier service for deliveries, or whether you handle deliveries yourself through the postal service. If you use multiple couriers, give their names and contact details, such as a website or phone number.
Costs
Explain your delivery costs. You can charge at flat rates or according to the package’s size and weight, depending on how you deliver your products. Another option is free delivery once customers reach a certain price threshold, or asking customers to pay costs if they want faster service.
Amending Orders
Let customers know how late they can cancel or amend their orders, and how they can do so. This could be through your website or by calling one of your stores.
Time Frames
Lay out the time frames for delivery, including processing times. For example, your processing time could take three to four days, while delivery could take up to 10 business days. You would include this in your shipping policy.
Shipping Locations
Detail what locations you ship to, and whether there are any locations (such as rural areas) that you do not deliver to, or deliver to at extra cost. Also, include whether you ship internationally.
Tracking
If customers can track their parcels from you, let them know how in your shipping policy. If you offer parcel status notifications, let customers know how to access these and whether customers will need to sign on delivery.
When There Is a Problem
Provide a clear process for customers to report problems or complain about deliveries. Include contact details, whether this is an email address or a company phone number.
Returns
Detail how you will handle returns, and whether you offer refunds or similar on top of what you are legally required to do. Let customers know whether you will cover returns delivery costs.
Delays
If there is any reason for overall delays in your service, such as those related to COVID-19, have a pop-up box at the top of your shipping policy informing customers. Update as needed.

Key Takeaways

Providing a clear and convenient shipping policy will generate good favour with customers, and make the overall delivery process much easier for you to handle if everyone knows how it works. Be sure that you comply with your consumer obligations and deal with any issues with deliveries as they arise. If you would like more information or help with your business’ shipping policy, contact LegalVision’s regulatory and compliance lawyers on 0800 447 119 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a shipping policy?

Your business’ shipping policy covers how you deliver goods to your customers. It will let them know how long delivery takes, where you deliver to, and who they can contact about their packages.

Do I need a shipping policy?

If your business delivers goods to your customers, you should have a shipping policy. That way, there is a clear outline for your customers if they have any questions about their deliveries, and lets them know when they can expect their goods.

What should I include in my shipping policy?

In your shipping policy, you should let customers know how long their ordered products will take to ship and what locations you ship to, amongst other things. Be sure to put any relevant legal disclaimers in your shipping policy as well.

Should my business cover delivery costs?

It is up to you whether you cover delivery costs. Your business can offer free delivery on products, but you will have to cover that loss. You could do that by only offering free delivery once customers meet a certain price or product threshold or incorporating delivery costs into your prices.

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