As the world shifts from dropping by a store to packages dropped on your doorstep, clear and concise standards around shipping, in the form of a shipping policy, are becoming a necessity for web vendors of all forms. A shipping policy is simply a clear statement of how your company ships goods. It can include:
Methods and how long each method will take
Times orders must be placed for certain guarantees such as same-day shipping
Restrictions on delivery, such as no P.O. boxes
Any other useful information for the customer
In this article we’ll discuss why you need a policy, where it should go, what should be contained in the policy, and how it interacts with other documentation such as your terms of service.
Why Have A Shipping Policy?
Shipping policies are not required by law, but they are useful to your customers and can help explain relevant laws and policies quickly and clearly. Fundamentally, a shipping policy is part of the overall implied contract between you and your customer that forms the basis of an exchange. It’s in the interest of both parties that this contract be as clear and detailed as possible.
In some circumstances, a shipping policy is also useful to explain two different legal systems to your customers, in the case of importing goods, or to explain interstate shipping restrictions, such as with chemicals.
In many cases it’s important to have these concerns fully documented in your policy, even if they only detail the relevant laws. Do not copy and paste these laws into your shipping policy; instead, include links to the necessary statute so customers can refer to their own counsel as needed.
Shipping policies also may be a part of your other policies. For example, as part of your website’s terms of service, you can make clear that all customer orders and requests must abide by your shipping policy.
This allows you to add important options to the contract between yourself and a customer, such as the ability to cancel orders if proper permits have not been obtained, to issue or deny refunds over shipping problems, and to explain what authorities you may be expected to provide inventories, bills of lading, and other information to and at which points in the shipping process.
What Should Your Shipping Policy Include?
Above all, your shipping policy should make clear what your responsibilities are for shipping, and what your customer will need to take care of. These will vary depending on what you ship and where you ship, so before drafting a policy, consider your most common shipping concerns.
Methods of Shipping
Detail which shipping methods and shipping companies you use, and their specific requirements. Make a point of linking to the specific shipping companies you use and providing their contact information, where necessary. If goods are tied up in transit, this will ease customer issues.