Many internet dealers advertise and operate a trading policy, although there is no legal requirement to do so. A clear and effective policy is a mark of good trading practice and offers protection to both seller and buyer.
Some reputable dealers do not yet operate policies and some very bad dealers do: a policy guarantees nothing by itself. The worst kind of dealer only produces a policy when a problem arises after a sale.
Some policies are phrased in an overly legalistic manner: a policy is best written in plain language.
Good dealers take the position that, as a matter of principle, the seller should side with the buyer: it is better to lose the sale than the client. However, sellers should protect themselves from frivolous returns and ‘buyer’s remorse’.
The following example is a model internet policy that can be tailored for use by internet dealers. It can also be used by buyers as a comparison to existing policies.
MODEL POLICY FOR INTERNET DEALERS
A. PRIVACY STATEMENT
It is customary to state that all contact details regarding the buyer will be kept only for purposes of sales records, forwarding of future newsletters and notification of new acquisitions. It is particularly important to state that contact details will not be released to third parties.
B. ITEM DESCRIPTIONS
This section guarantees and underwrites the accuracy of given descriptions and details of items listed on the website, with regard to:
ii. What the item is
iii. Where the item is from/what culture
iv. Estimated age/period
v. Condition, including existing repairs
Exceptions to any of the above should be clearly stated next to the individual item.
C. CONDITIONS OF
i. Payment, ie full payment to be received before delivery or transfer of title
ii. Shipping, ie costs to be agreed prior to sale
iii. Shipping costs to be payable by the buyer unless otherwise agreed
iv. Packing costs to be payable by the seller unless otherwise agreed
iv. Local taxes and duties to be the responsibility of the buyer
iv. Available payment options
D. WRITTEN INVOICE
An invoice should include the item’s price, shipping costs and all relevant descriptions, guarantees and provenance as listed in B.
E. EXAMINATION PERIOD
This section should specify:
i. The length of the period from receipt of goods, ie 7 days
ii. That the sale becomes final at the expiry of the examination period
F. RETURNS CRITERIA DURING EXAMINATION PERIOD
This section should specify acceptable reasons for the buyer to request a return:
i. Damage to item in shipping
ii. Legitimate concerns about restoration
iv. Questions of authenticity
v. Aesthetic objections
vi. Any other reason thought acceptable by the buyer.
G. RETURNS PROCEDURE DURING EXAMINATION PERIOD
This section should state that:
i. The buyer must contact seller in the first instance, stating their objection
ii. The seller is allowed to offer due cause and reason
iii. Should a return be agreed, the item it must be suitably packed and arrive in
the same condition
iii. The buyer pays for shipping
iv. The seller refunds purchase price – minus shipping - after receipt and
examination of the item.
H. RETURNS CRITERIA OUTSIDE OF EXAMINATION PERIOD
This section should specify acceptable reasons for return:
i. Arising issues of authenticity
ii. Arising issues of condition
iii. Arising issues of restoration
iv. Arising issues of misidentification
i. Seller and buyer agree to time limit to resolve dispute
ii. Seller and buyer each provide documentation from at least two sources, which
should be agreed beforehand, eg:
a. Written report by museum curator
b. Written report by auction house specialist
c. Written report by conservator/restorer
d. Written report by dealer specialist
e. Written report by other agreed authority
iii. Seller and buyer agree to arbitration with one or more of the above specialists
iv. If no resolution can be found through non-legal means, seller and buyer have
the right to proceed with standard legal remedies