I am creating an online package for my service offering, what do I need to know?
Service providers are more commonly packaging up services to be purchased online. It is important to understand that you can’t compromise your legal obligations when streamlining your services this way. Here are my top tips when selling online service packages.
Have terms and conditions
You are still a business providing a service, even when it is provided remotely. In fact, when there is no communication between you and your customer, it is even more important to have clear terms setting out the legal obligations between you and your customer.
Make sure your customers accept your terms before they buy
I am often asked if you should have a ‘tick box’ where customers indicate that they have read your terms. I know it seems pointless – everyone ticks the box without reading the terms right? Well that may be the case but it is important from a contract perspective. A legally binding contract only exists where there has been acceptance of the terms. Acceptance has to happen before the services are provided. So if you aren’t in the business of having forms signed and returned to you, you should at least have a tick box that they were read. The fact that they may not have been read can still be problematic, but at least with a tick box your customer is making a representation that they know and accept your terms of business.
Watch what you say
Make sure you have carefully reviewed your website copy and are clear about what you are and are not providing. You need to make sure that there is no misleading statements on your website, and that you aren’t making any guarantees (promises) that you can’t satisfy. There is a balance between self-promotion and misrepresenting yourself. Your terms should also be clear about what must be expected.
You still have to comply with the consumer law
Consumer law guarantees still apply to online transactions . This means you must provide your service with due care and skill, you must satisfy any timeframes that you say or provide your services within a reasonable time and you must satisfy any guarantees that you make about the services.
Exercise caution with set expiry dates or fixed term subscriptions
I see a lot of businesses offering packages that must be used within a set period, or ‘too bad so sad’ you lose your money. Remember that gym membership that you had to keep paying even when you didn’t go any-more? Well, the times have changed and gyms don’t get away with that any more. There is a balance when you offer fixed term packages and subscriptions. Firstly, the law says that if you breach a consumer law guarantee, then you may have to provide a refund. So a blanket no refund policy is actually illegal.
Secondly, there is a balance. Fixed term contracts can be deemed unfair under the consumer law. This is because people are allowed choice, and shouldn’t have to pay for services that aren’t provided. So don’t assume that a fixed term package will actually be enforceable by law.
It will be enforceable if you have flexibility in your approach. For example, you are allowed to rely on the fact that someone will proceed with your services. You will dedicate time to that person and potentially limit your workload to accommodate them. Of course, you will also rely on the expectation of the income. However, you cannot penalise someone that wants to move on when the services aren’t working for them.
This is why it is important to have clear website content and terms and conditions because there is no other way to make sure your online clients understand what the expectations are.