Considering Consumers: Tips for Consumer Law Compliance
01/06/2020 by The Red Tree
This article is written by Alice Esuola, a Commercial lawyer at leading international law firm Bird & Bird LLP. Alice helps clients to strengthen their relationships with consumers by providing tailored and commercially-focussed support. She advises consumer-facing clients on commercial matters and on all aspects of consumer, marketing and advertising law.
Consumers are increasingly aware of – and vocal about – their rights. That’s why it’s important to get your interactions with them right from the outset, not only to ensure that you’re complying with the law but also to demonstrate to your customers that you value them and are aware of and respect their rights.
Two important ways in which you’ll interact with customers, existing and prospective, is through your marketing activities and your terms and conditions.
Who is a consumer?
The definition of a consumer can vary by territory but broadly speaking in the UK and much of the European Union, a consumer will be someone who is acting for purposes which are wholly or mainly outside of their trade, business, craft or profession.
It’s important to be clear about which of your customers are consumers. They’ll generally be offered greater legal protections than your business customers and there will be certain things which you’ll be required to set out in your contracts with them.
How should you market yourself?
The way in which you promote your products and/or services sends a strong message to customers about your brand. Your marketing materials should let customers know who you are, distinguish your offering and, importantly, comply with any advertising rules and regulations in the territories in which you market.
Advertising laws have been designed with consumer protection in mind, so that consumers are not misled about which products or services are being offered and who is offering them. Your advertising should be clearly identifiable as such and particular care should also be taken where third parties, such as social media influencers, will be advertising on your behalf. You’ll want to ensure that your customers are not misled and can readily identify any content posted by that third party as advertising.
Marketing initiatives gone wrong can be a PR disaster but seeking legal advice in advance of any major marketing campaigns can help you to remain on the right side of the law and the advertising regulators.
What should your terms and conditions cover?
If you sell your products and/or services direct to your customers (rather than through a third party such as a retailer, a distributor, or a franchisee), your terms and conditions set out the basis on which consumers will contract with you and outline the nature of your legal relationship. The list below provides an overview of the key terms which should be included in every contract.
o Who you are: Your terms should provide the name and company information of the entity responsible for providing the products and/or services to customers. If you use a trading name, for example, your terms will also need to make clear what the name of your registered company is.
o What you’re offering: Customers should know what they are ordering before they enter into a contract with you. What are the characteristics of the goods or services being provided? How much will the customer have to pay?
o Eligibility: If there are certain criteria which a customer needs to meet or certain restrictions in place, such as a requirement to be a certain age, this should be set out clearly.
o Payment Terms: You’ll also need to make it clear when and how the customer will need to pay you. Do you offer your products and/or services on a one-off basis or are customers able to order on a recurring basis, for example through a subscription service?
o How long the contract lasts and how to cancel: In addition to making it clear how long the contract will last, your terms should clearly set out what happens if a customer wants to cancel, outlining when and how they can do so. Under consumer laws in the UK for example, in many circumstances customers will be able to benefit from a 14-day “cooling-off” period during which they can opt to cancel a contract and receive a refund (although there are some exceptions to this).
o How to contact you: The touch-points you have with your customers are important opportunities to get feedback and put things right when they go wrong. You should provide contact details such as your address, email address and telephone number, so that customers can easily get in contact with you if they need to.
Consumer and advertising laws vary on a country-by-country basis and can be tricky to navigate. Seeking legal advice in the territories where you sell, market and make your products or services available will help you to ensure that your marketing activities comply with advertising laws and that your terms are in the best possible shape.
Ultimately, communicating with your customers in a way which is transparent, clear and legally compliant will help you to foster your relationship with them.
The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.
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