Product & service information

Does your company provide product and/or service information that enables customers to make fully informed purchasing decisions?

OKAY Answers

No OKAY answers have been published for this question.

POOR Answers

No POOR answers have been published for this question.

Clear information on products and services enables customers to make informed choices when purchasing products and services. It is impossible for customers or clients to make fully considered judgments about the goods and services they purchase when information regarding price, quality, services and products is not available,. As such, it is generally considered to be a basic responsibility of a business to provide essential information about its products and services that is easily accessible, reasonably complete, not confusing, and stated in plain and understandable language. Also, product and service information should be provided in a timely manner so that it can be of use to the consumer in their decision making process.

When selling products and services, disclosure of certain key information is usually required under consumer protection law. In the UK this includes safety, pricing, weights and measures, descriptions of products and services, the contract between a buyer and seller, competition between businesses, intellectual property and counterfeiting. There are additional, specific labelling requirements for certain products, such as food and precious metals.

Requirements on what information to provide to consumers - and how - depends on several factors. These factors may include: the target audience, the product itself, and the characteristics of the market for the product or service. Further, the greater the complexity of the product or service, the greater the requirement for information disclosure. Vendors should not confuse quality with quantity, however. Care must be taken to avoid information overload which can confuse or overwhelm customers.

Businesses that sell services, to individuals or other businesses, have further obligations with tighter regulations on some sectors over others. For example, under UK law, the main features of the service being offered should be stated explicitly. Generally, if the price is not pre-determined, a business must be able to supply a detailed estimate so that a client can use the proposed method to calculate the cost, check the figures and arrive at the price.

Service providers may need to present the terms and conditions used, including information on any contract terms that are governed by the law of a particular country ('the English courts have jurisdiction' or 'this contract is governed by Scottish law'). Further, as an after-sales guarantee may not be imposed by law, it is best practice to make clear whether such a guarantee exists or not.

Additionally, contracts may not contain ‘unfair terms’, which include:

● Fees and charges hidden in the small print
● Attempts to limit pre-existing legal rights
● Disproportionate default charges
● Excessive early termination charges

Consumer protection legislation is not exhaustive. As such it is good practice to make certain that service information and product labelling provides relevant and fair information even if this is not a legal requirement. Ideally, any claims that are made about a product or service will also be supported by factual evidence and not be based solely on the opinion of the manufacturer or service provider.

There are many voluntary labelling standards that businesses can sign up to that are run by independent bodies, e.g. Fairtrade, Soil Association. These standards provide additional information about product characteristics and production methods. These include:

● Information about business ethics
● Information on provenance, e.g. product of Scotland
● Philanthropy, e.g. percentage of profits donated to charity

Such claims can distinguish a product or service from those of competitors and sway customers in their purchasing decisions. As such, a certain level of verifiability is important to maintain consumer trust. ISEAL, which has a particular focus on the provision and credibility of sustainability information, states that such claims should be:

● Clear
● Accurate
● Relevant
● Transparent
● Robust

Insufficient, inaccurate or misleading information can damage customer confidence, risk legal challenge, introduce health and safety risks, and threaten business reputation.

Consumer

A 'consumer' is an individual who, in their dealings with a trader, is not acting for the purposes of a business. Where a consumer presents themselves as a business (for example, by buying goods for personal use from a trade outlet on a trade account) the law does not consider him to be a consumer.

Trader

An individual or organisation acting for purposes relating to your trade, business, craft or profession then you are a 'trader'.

Answering YES

All Businesses MUST

State any philosophy or key values which govern or influence relationships with customers

Explain how they provide product or service information, e.g. product tags, leaflets, menu information, web pages

Describe what is generally included in product labelling and/or service information, e.g. expected costs for services (as opposed to hidden costs in the small print)

Mention any national or international legislation that is applicable concerning product labelling and the provision of service information, including their approach to compliance

All Businesses MAY

State whether any of their product labelling or service information is provided and/or audited by any other organisation(s), and if so which organisation(s)

Describe any relevant training given to staff

Mention any voluntary labelling standards they are signed up to, and if and how performance against them are monitored

Answering NO

All Businesses MUST

Explain why they do not or cannot answer YES to this question and list the business reasons, any mitigating circumstance or any other reasons that apply

All Businesses MAY

Indicate any relevant practices and policies, even if they do not fully address the specifications for answering YES

Provide any other relevant information

DON'T KNOW is not a permissible answer to this question

NOT APPLICABLE is not a permissible answer to this question

Version 2

To receive a score of 'Excellent'

The provision of good product and service information is a key strategic issue and/or of fundamental importance. Customers are always provided with useful and relevant information to enable them to make fully informed purchasing decisions

Examples of policies and practices which may support an EXCELLENT statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. Statement of philosophy or values or principles for communication/service
  2. Customer service obviously driving company actions
  3. Provides information far beyond minimum legally required
  4. Information provided is not overly excessive and avoids information overload or confusing presentation
  5. Provides objective evidence about product/service
  6. Product and service information is clearly signposted for customers
  7. Information is provided in clear language
  8. All claims are supported with evidence, including possible health benefits, environmental credentials, and any endorsements
  9. Information covers and is available before, during and after the sale is made
  10. Information is provided in a timely manner
  11. Price information is clearly visible and in a form that facilitates price comparison, e.g. per unit or weight
  12. Using product or service information to help build long-term relationships with their customers/clients
  13. Collects customer feedback to improve service information
  14. Uses third party audit/review to ensure quality/clarity of information provided
  15. Continuous review of policies which evolve to reflect new standards
  16. Performance is tracked against ambitious goals
  17. Signed up to rigorous voluntary codes of conduct
  18. Cited as exemplar of best practices by other organisations
  19. Staff are given comprehensive training on how to provide high quality information to customers, and how to explain terms and conditions etc
  20. Champions issue and leads efforts to improve regulations and/or extend industry best practice
To receive a score of 'Good'

Business demonstrates a clear commitment to providing relevant and accessible product and service information and has clear policies and practices in place

Examples of policies and practices which may support a GOOD statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. Statement of philosophy or values or principles for delivering information
  2. Apparent that customer service values are driving company actions
  3. Provide information beyond minimum legally required in various formats
  4. Provides objective evidence about product/service
  5. Collect customer feedback to improve service information
  6. Measures performance
  7. Signed up to voluntary codes of conduct
  8. Supports efforts to improve standards and/or extend industry best practice
To receive a score of 'Okay'

Business meets regulatory minimums regarding product and service information and adopts best practice on an ad hoc basis

Examples of policies and practices which may support an OKAY statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. Provides minimum information (as legally required)
  2. Uses more than one way to inform customers of products or services for easy access
  3. Monitoring of policies is ad hoc and/or not comprehensive
  4. Issue is not seen as a priority for the business
  5. Staff are given little training or support on implementing best practice
  6. Demonstrates intent to improve
To receive a score of 'Poor'

The business acknowledges performance below expectations and/or it has made claims which are unsubstantiated and/or which have been criticised in the media and/or by authorities or third parties

Examples of policies and practices which may support a POOR statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. Customers are or feel misled and/or deceived
  2. Limited information apparent
  3. Unsubstantiated claims made
  4. Makes use of information sources, comparison or review websites which appear to be impartial but are in reality are affiliated with or have commercial relationship with the company
  5. Information provided is misleading, incomprehensible or not easily available to consumers
  6. Uses unfair terms in contracts
  7. Information is deliberately withheld from consumers and only made available when no longer relevant or too late
  8. Branding and/or marketing create confusion with competitors’ products
  9. Additional charges are made without consumer consent
  10. Does not seek feedback, or does not act to improve service based on customer feedback received