A customer asked for a refund when my terms and conditions make it clear that there aren’t any refunds. She was cross and said “do I need to take this further” which I assumed was some kind of smear campaign or social media post shooting me down in flames. So I refunded her. Do I need to add something into my t’s and c’s about defamation and threats?
The short answer is that no, you do not need something about this in your terms and conditions.
The legal issue that we are dealing with here is defamation. If you are confident that there are no issues about service delivery or misrepresentation and they are just wanting to change their mind about their purchase and get a refund, then if they were to post on social media about this and say something which caused serious harm to your reputation, they would potentially be liable for defamation.
The two defences to defamation are that the statement is true or that an honest person could have held that opinion. It's hard to see how either defences could apply here (if indeed there are no issues about service delivery or misrepresentation and they are just wanting to change their mind and get a refund). In these situations, it's important to know our rights and to stand our ground – and if necessary to use the Defamation Cease and Desist Letter (that is in the template library of the Small Business Legal Academy) to show them that you mean business.
If, of course, you are dealing with consumers, you should always provide the 14 day cooling off period if you are selling the distance e.g. over the phone, over the Internet or by email. If the consumer were to cancel during that period, you would need to refund them. However any refunds outside of this period would be at your discretion (unless you had not notified them of the 14 day cooling off period within your terms, in which case the cooling off period and the right to a refund would extend to 12 months post the purchase date). In the case of a sale to a person who is not buying as a consumer (i.e. somebody who is buying wholly or partly for the purposes of a business, trade, craft or profession) you do not have to provide a refund in any circumstances in relation to the provision of services. Ideally this should be stated in your terms of business.
© Suzanne Dibble 2013-2023
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