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Nine legal tips to avoid being an ecommerce turkey next Christmas

Ecommerce hit the headlines over the recent Christmas period, but not always for the right reasons. A number of retailers were reported to have had website performance and/or delivery issues, triggering social media complaints and some brand damage.

So what legal steps could you take to help avoid such problems in future?

  1. Make your pick date and its implications for stock availability very clear in your customer journey. Don't bury the details in your terms and conditions. To avoid complaints and bad press, you need to manage customer expectations.
  2. Make it very clear in your customer journey what it takes for delivery slots to be confirmed and binding. Again, don't just bury them in your terms and conditions.
  3. If the delivery date provided in your customer journey is an estimate only, say so (again, very clearly in your customer journey). Otherwise you are likely be bound by it, regardless of your terms and conditions.
  4. In any event, make sure you deliver "without undue delay" and within 30 days. This became a statutory requirement in June 2014.
  5. Don't push the boundaries with substitute goods. Flag the changes in real time to your customers at point of pick if you can, and failing that make sure that your delivery drivers to flag the changes properly. A customer is not bound to accept substitutes unless they are genuinely aware and agree. Knowledge after the fact is what typically prompts complaints.
  6. Watch out for surge and slump overriders in supplier service level agreements, especially relating to supply volumes, customer delivery, call handling and website availability. Black Friday events may just trigger them...
  7. Watch out for the combined effect of surge and slump overriders across your different supplier service level agreements. If your website is down due to demand, call volumes will in all likelihood spike; do you really want your call centre to be able to call a 'surge' and have their SLA's relaxed in such circumstances? (If anything you'd want them to step up to the plate).
  8. At the risk of stating the obvious, make sure your website's technological resilience keeps pace with the growth of your business and likely spikes in demand. If you build in more resilience, make sure all related supplier contracts properly reflect the new position -  you may need to rely on them if your website does go down.
  9. Keep up your brand and information security due diligence. Peak demand periods are likely to prompt phishing and other forms of fraudulent attack that could threaten your systems and your brand. Your customers may also be less vigilant and vulnerable if there is a frenzied rush to take advantage of your great offers.

In summary, a great customer journey and genuine diligence are key from a legal point of view. 

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

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