Who: Department for Business, Innovation & Skills
When: July 2014
Law as stated at: 8 August 2014
In a development that is relevant for all UK business selling products online, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (“BIS”) has published a statement of principles for parcel deliveries setting out best practice principles for online retailers to follow in relation to delivery of their goods. The principles aim to address current delivery problems experienced by some consumers and to ensure that delivery services meet the needs of consumers by building on the retailers’ minimum legal requirements.
The document also provides illustrative examples of how the principles could be applied by retailers, though BIS emphasises that these are not exhaustive and other means can be used to demonstrate compliance with law.
The principles set out in the BIS guidance are as follows:
Delivery policy disclosure
At the earliest possible stage of the online purchasing process (and before the customer completes their order), online retailers should ensure that consumers can easily access clear, timely and transparent delivery policy information, including information on any possible necessary geographic surcharges or delivery restrictions that could apply, and the reasons for such variations.
Example of compliance: retailer has a tool on its site where consumers can enter their postcode early in the purchase process to receive information on whether delivery is available to their area, whether additional delivery costs apply and how long delivery would take.
Online retailers should ensure that their delivery coverage policies do not discriminate against consumers on the basis of their location and should use best endeavours to provide the widest possible delivery coverage. Delivery should only be refused when it can be justified by objective criteria, e.g. where the dimension and/or weight of the item fall outside the scope of Royal Mail’s obligations (as the universal service provider).
Example of compliance: retailer puts in place alternative or additional delivery arrangements using a combination of couriers to increase the geographic coverage it can offer
Online retailers should ensure that their delivery pricing policies do not discriminate against consumers on the basis of their location. Geographic surcharges should be applied only when these costs are justified by objective criteria, such as the actual and unavoidable costs incurred because of the distance.
Flexible delivery options
Online retailers, working with their carriers, should consider how delivery options and services could be used to increase the success of first-time delivery, and should endeavour to offer innovative delivery options to meet the needs of consumers.
Example of compliance: retailer provides space for consumers to provide additional delivery instructions, such as safe place information, and uses that information to increase first-time delivery success.
Other relevant delivery information
Online retailers should seek to provide consumers with other relevant information that they hold at the time the order is completed and/or dispatched.
Example of compliance: retailer provides consumers with details of the delivery company that is delivering their parcel when it issues confirmation that the item has been despatched.
Online retailers should include options for consumers to provide feedback about their delivery experience.
Example of compliance: retailer emails consumers after delivery to ask for feedback on the delivery component of the transaction.
Why this matters:
The use of the BIS statement of principles is stated to be voluntary and should be read alongside retailers’ legal obligations when trading online. It is likely to have particular relevance for traders selling to consumers in remote, rural and island communities. However, all online retailers involved in the delivery of goods will need to review their current practices and the pre-sale information they provide on their sites to check the extent of their compliance with these principles.