How to write a delivery policy

From the perspective of the customer, the delivery policy may be the most important legal document on a website.  It should answer questions that are of keen interest to all customers: by what means will my goods be delivered?  When will they be delivered?  Do I have to sign for delivery?  Will I have to take a day off work?  And how much will it all cost?

Accordingly, if you're selling goods through a website, you should publish a delivery policy of some kind.

A delivery policy is a relatively straightforward document to prepare.  Whether you plan to write your own from scratch or work from a template or precedent (see our various ecommerce-related templates here), you should consider and, where necessary, cover each of the following issues.

(1) A separate policy?

The first question to ask yourself is whether the delivery policy should be part of the T&Cs of sale, or a separate document.

Because it is one of the few sections of the T&Cs that customers may want to read, I normally advise keeping it separate from the rest of the T&Cs.  However, if you're trying to keep your legal documentation to a minimum, then it's perfectly acceptable for the policy to form a section of the T&Cs.

(2) Legal enforceability

Another question to address before you start work on the policy is this: will the policy create legally enforceable rights and obligations?  The answer to this depends in large part upon whether obligations and liabilities concerning problem deliveries are set out in the T&Cs or the delivery policy.

If you decide that it should, and delivery policy is a separate document, the policy should be incorporated into the contract of sale through the T&Cs of sale.  You'll need to check and amend the T&Cs to ensure that this is done (and don't forget to check any entire agreement clause).

(3) Methods of delivery

You might have a single method of delivery, you might have many.  Typical examples include:

  • standard delivery;
  • express delivery;
  • next day delivery; and
  • international delivery.

Customers may have a choice amongst the methods.  The choice of method may, however, be conditioned by the place of delivery and/or the types of products purchased.

(4) Places of delivery

Will you deliver anywhere in the world (the Outer Hebrides? Timbuktu? Antarctica?), or to a more limited range of destinations?

Deliveries will be at the mercy of local postal services; don't promise what they can't deliver.

(5) Delivery charges

If the charging structure for deliveries is relatively straightforward, then it's best to set it out in full in the policy.  Customers like to know what they're going to pay!  If the charging structure is too complex to describe in full, you should describe the principles underlying the structure, and perhaps give examples of the delivery charges due for particular sets of circumstances.

If you are VAT registered, VAT may be payable upon your delivery charges.  The general rule is that VAT will be payable on delivery charges where it is payable on the product price.  You should take advice on this from your accountant or tax advisor.

(6) Problems

Problems associated with the delivery of products - whether caused by the seller, buyer or another person - can be dealt with either in T&Cs of sale or a legally-enforceable delivery policy.

Typically, a seller will re-deliver as soon as practicable in the event of a problem cause by the seller or the shipping company, but will reserve the right to levy a further delivery charge in the event that the problem was caused by the buyer.

(7) Tracking

If your customers are able to track their packages, you should provide details of how to do so in the delivery policy.

(8) Customer obligations

If the customer has any particular obligations in relation to deliveries, for example they must receive deliveries in person or sign for them, then these can be specified either in the T&Cs of sale or, again, in a legally-enforceable delivery policy.

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