Dealers considering offering a click and collect solution to car sales should consider changing it to a subtle but crucially different ‘reserve and collect’ model.
Click and collect has been the key for many dealers to do business, but new advice appears to suggest that ‘reserve and collect’ could actually be the better option because of distance selling regulations.
Here, we’ve gathered from Nona Bowkis of Lawgistics to find out everything you need to know to safely and legally sell cars during the lockdown.
Can I open my showroom yet?
To be clear, opening your showroom to the public is still off the agenda for now.
Nona Bowkis says: ‘The law is clear that the showroom model must cease to trade – the government do not want customers just turning up to browse for obvious reasons.
‘However, the business can continue by “making deliveries or otherwise providing services in response to orders received” by phone, website etc. Much like pubs have had to close their doors but can offer deliveries and take-aways for people who phone an order through.’
What’s the difference between ‘click and collect’ and ‘reserve and collect’?
With that in mind, there are two choices for dealers: Deliver vehicles or set up a collection procedure.
And when it comes to collection, there are two more choices: ‘click and collect’ or ‘reserve and collect’. And while they might sound like the same thing, there’s a key difference, and that’s how they relate to the laws surrounding distance selling.
Nona Bowkis explains: ‘The difference between the two collection options comes down to when the deposit is taken. If the customer places a deposit online or over the phone, they have entered into the contract prior to seeing the vehicle.
‘That is then likely to be considered a distance sale which means the customer must be given the correct paperwork and a 14 day ‘change your mind’ option. If the dealer fails to provide all the correct paperwork, the change your mind period is extended by a year.
‘If dealers go for a ‘reserve and collect’ style model – or what some have called a ‘no deposit click and collect’ model – the customer does not make any payment at the time the appointment is booked.
‘As such, the customer only pays and enters into the contract after they have been to the premises and viewed the car, so this is unlikely to be a distance sale meaning none of the distance sale paperwork will need to be provided and no 14-day return policy needs to be offered.
‘If dealers want the security of taking a deposit before booking an appointment for a customer to collect their vehicle, they will need to provide the correct 14-day return paperwork and be prepared to refund the customer the amount paid minus any deduction for usage over whatever mileage the dealer puts on the paperwork. I suggest 20 miles is reasonable.
‘The dealer will need to put on the paperwork that the customer is responsible for delivering the car back and covering the cost of doing so in the event of seeking a refund otherwise the customer can add insult to injury and force the dealer to collect.
Bowkis recommends that dealers opt for ‘reserve and collect’ if they want to avoid the 14-day distance selling return policy, but in either case, suggests providing a video meeting to virtually show the customer around the car and prepare finance documents. This will help to minimise contact with the customer on arrival.
How do I provide a safe collection process?
The most important things to consider here are cleanliness and social distancing.
First of all, make sure the cars have been cleaned and disinfected prior to collection. Giving the customer peace of mind that the vehicle is safe to simply drive away is now an important level of customer service that should not be ignored.
When it comes to social distancing, you should ensure that where multiple collections are booked in, that these collections are staggered to minimise potential contact between customers. You should block out enough time for the first customer to complete the handover process and leave before the next one arrives.
Also, if the customer has to enter the premises to pay or complete paperwork, you should have a process in place that keeps them the required two metres from staff at all times. It’s also a good idea to have hand sanitiser available, too.
You should also implement a social distancing queuing system, much like those that are common at supermarkets. This allows you to be prepared should any deliveries overlap or customers turn up unexpectedly.
Lawgistics recommends dealers should familiarise themselves with Public Health England’s Covid-19 guidance for retail environments. Car Dealer has summarised the guidance here.
Can customers take test drives?
If the customer wants to test the car before committing to the purchase, this is allowed, but dealers should take the same steps recommended above to make sure the car is sanitised before and after it is tested.
Further guidance from Lawgistics surrounding test drives is as follows: ‘Test drives should be taken unaccompanied (assuming the dealer is adequately insured) and we strongly recommend the use of test drive pads to protect the dealer against any loss from accidents and fines, and also to comply with GDPR in regard to keeping a copy of the driving licence on file for six months.’
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