Having fair returns and complaints policies show that you offer great customer service — and help your business handle complaints promptly and fairly.
Following set steps will help save you time, money and stress when handling complaints, because everyone will know what to do. Use our downloadable checklist — and our quiz on returns — to help you.
Consumer law says customers can get a replacement, repair or refund for:
You do not have to give a refund, repair or replace if the customer:
If a customer makes a complaint that seems unreasonable — or they don’t give you enough information up front — be polite but assertive. It’s your right to investigate complaints. Find out as much as you can before deciding what — if any — remedy to offer.
If you’re a retailer, it’s a good idea to display a refund sign near the till so customers and staff know which returns you’ll accept and which you’ll refuse.
Obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act(external link) — Consumer Protection
Do you know when to give a customer a refund, repair or replacement? Take this quiz to find out. When you're done, follow the links in the answers for more details.
A returns policy — or complaint policy — outlines when your business will offer a return, refund or replacement, and when it has the right to refuse. You can either:
What “more than the legal minimum” means is up to you and the type of industry you’re in. What you can’t do is offer less than what’s legally required. Here are some examples:
|Business type||Legal minimum||More than the minimum|
|Clothing retailer||Accept returns if garment is faulty||Also accept returns if customer changes their mind|
|Cafe||Give replacement coffee if waiter spills it or it takes too long to arrive||Also give replacement coffee if customer accidentally drops it|
|Mechanic or bike repairer||Free repairs for faulty parts||Also offer higher-quality replacement parts at no extra cost|
|Plumber||Aim to complete jobs on time||Also offer a discount if it's not completed within a given timeframe|
Putting your policy in writing — even a one-pager with key points — means you and any staff know what to do about different types of complaint. It’s a good idea to include:
Plain language is a must. Avoid complex technical or legal jargon. Make sure everyone understands the terms — and rewrite if needed.
If it’s faulty, you repay the postage/delivery costs, then provide a repair, refund or replacement.
Customers will also want to check your returns policy, so it’s a good idea to share at least the key points.
Think about how you’ll do this. Options include:
This is particularly useful if a customer is asking for more than you are legally required to do to resolve a complaint.
Make it as easy as possible for customers to raise complaints, and for your business to record and resolve problems. It’s a good idea to use the complaints checklist and complaint record form at the top of this page.
Whatever the complaint:
Dealing with complaints and bad reviews(external link) — Consumer Protection
Here are other ways to show customers you are keen to improve your service and deal with any problems.
Use this information and complaints data to identify wider issues that need fixing, for example with deliveries or a supplier.
Here are seven steps to work through when dealing with a complaint. These are also in our complaints process checklist for you to download and check off whenever a complaint comes in.
It’s a lot of paperwork, will probably cost you money in the long run, and customers already have rights to remedies under consumer laws.