Last Sunday I hosted my fourth E-Seller Mastery Programme workshop day – and what a fantastic day it was!

It was lovely to meet so many of my students in person and put faces to names! Despite a few technical hitches early on, the day went very well and it was great to see everyone mingling, chatting and generally making the most of what was a very informative day.

During the workshop we had time for a group discussion and a Q&A session during which plenty of interesting questions came up. One of these was regarding the slightly scary sounding ‘Distance Selling Rules’ and so, as this applies to so many of my eletter readers I thought I would cover this subject today.

If you sell online – the chances are you are ‘distance selling’

Now, as an online seller you are operating a ‘distance selling business’. All this means is that rather than having a shop on the high street where buyers can come in and browse the goods you have for sale, instead you sell stock online, be it ebay, Amazon or via your own site. And as a distance seller there are a few regulations that you need to stick by, namely to do with offering a guarantee for your products.

In the past I have always advised you to offer a money back guarantee with your products – it instils trust and confidence and you are likely to make many more sales by offering a no-quibble guarantee, be it for 14 days or 30 days – but you may not realise that even if you don’t offer a money back guarantee, your purchasers are legally entitled to return their goods within a certain time frame, even if they have simply changed their minds!

Unlike in a bricks and mortar shop, any buyers who make a purchase online through distance selling are quite obviously unable to touch or see the goods before handing over their cash. Although photos and accurate descriptions really help to let a person know what it is they’re actually getting, every so often a customer might be confused and left with a product which was not what they were after in the first place. It seems only fair therefore that online (distance sellers) should offer some sort of guarantee to customers in the case of this happening, and this is the legal requirement that I’ve just mentioned.

You must offer a ‘return and refund’ period

The legal regulations concerning distance selling state that you must offer to refund the customer if the product purchased from you is returned within seven days, in its original packaging. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, for example for perishable goods such as cakes, bread, dairy products and other foodstuffs. Even items sold using an auction format such as on ebay are required to comply with the distance selling regulations. So, it is important that you understand exactly what the legal ramifications are for your online selling business in terms of offering a guarantee.
Where to find out more

The information available on this is quite detailed, so I recommend you head over to the Office of Fair Trading website to take a look at the information they provide in relation to distance selling. You can find everything that you need to know at the following website address:

Office of Fair Trading:

This page you can link to from above is all about selling at a distance – i.e. online, and there is plenty of information that you should take a look at in terms of any legal obligations that you may have to your customers.

I’m not just going to abandon you over at the website though! You need to know which parts are important and you need to read up on.

One particularly useful link can be found on the right hand side of the page. It’s a PDF guide for business on distance selling, and contains an overview of everything that you need to know from a legal standpoint. You can access it here

I must also stress that there is no need to worry about the legalities of this! If you’ve been operating as an online seller for a while now without understanding the legal guarantee that you need to provide, simply head over to the website now, catch up and start fulfilling any legal requirements from this point onwards.

If it turns out that the items you sell are exempt from the regulations detailed on the Office of Fair Trading website then you have absolutely no requirement to provide any sort of guarantee from a legal point of view.

No-Quibble guarantees help make sales!

As I’ve mentioned, personally I’m a big fan of including a guarantee with all of my products. There’s nothing like offering a customer their money back should they not be totally satisfied because it builds consumer confidence. Your guarantee can often be the final thing that convinces a customer to make their purchase from you rather than another seller, after all, if you don’t believe in your own product you certainly wouldn’t be offering to send someone’s money back if they aren’t happy with it would you?

Of course, there are a few buyers out there who could try to take advantage of the money back guarantee that you offer, but this is incredibly rare. In fact, in all my time as an online seller I can honestly only think of a handful of instances where I’ve ever had to provide a refund, and I’ve always offered a 30 day money back guarantee – so please don’t think that everyone will suddenly start requesting a refund, just because you offer it. They won’t!

What to do next

Have a think about the sort of guarantee that you could offer to your customers right now. Granted, if you legally have to offer a seven day refund then you should make that clear in your terms and conditions, but could you go above and beyond what the law requires and go for a 30 day money back guarantee like I do? If so have a think about the different types of guarantees that you could utilise for your business:

Money Back. This is the basic guarantee that means a buyer can return an item if it turns out to be something other than they expect or if, for example, it’s an item of clothing that doesn’t fit. The item to be returned must be unused and in its original packaging for the refund.

Satisfaction. One step up from the Money Back guarantee, this Satisfaction guarantee means that you will accept any item back if it develops a fault within the specified timeframe, and also demands that you would return both the value of the item and the cost of the postage in sending it back to you.

No-Quibble. This is the daddy of all guarantees, as it allows a buyer to return an item within the time period you have chosen, with no questions asked, even if the product has been used. Chances are you won’t be able to resell something that is returned under this guarantee, but it is the most effective for building confidence as a fair businessperson.

If you haven’t already done so, why not have a look into your legal requirements as a distance seller and have a think as to whether you could offer a guarantee that’s even better than the law requires in order to build confidence in your service.

It’s another little trick that you can use immediately to increase sales… and your profits.