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COVID-19: general advice for businesses


During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, we recognise that cashflow and keeping your business afloat are major concerns and finding the right information can be a challenge. We hope the information and links below will be of use to your business at this time.

We are waiving fees for bespoke regulatory advice for all our Devon/Somerset business customers until the end of July so if you would like further advice for your business, please contact us.

On this page you can find general advice for your business. We have also produced these more detailed guides:

You can find more information on common trading standards issues in our free self-help business advice guides.

For  guidance on restarting your business safely, see the Better Business for All COVID-19 Toolkit.

For regular updates on a wide range of business matters that will be of use to both employers and employees, see: 

Business closure

Some businesses are not allowed to open – see GOV.UK – Closing certain businesses and venues.

Pricing

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) wants to ensure that traders do not exploit the current situation by taking advantage of people.

We are urging all retailers to behave responsibly throughout the coronavirus outbreak and not to make misleading claims or charge vastly inflated prices. We also remind members of the public that these obligations may also apply to them if they resell goods, for example using online marketplaces. See GOV.UK – COVID-19: sales and pricing practices during coronavirus outbreak and GOV.UK – CMA COVID-19 taskforce.

Labelling of products

You should not make false or misleading claims but we understand that in the current circumstances there will be disruption to the normal supply chains. We advise all businesses to regularly review product descriptions including ingredients to ensure that the information you supply is correct.

If you are not able to source raw material, you should take reasonable steps to ensure your customers are not misled. This may be changing information on a website, updating your packaging/delivery documents, having a note in store or even over-sticking product packaging to remove any false claim.

We would not want to see a business throw away hundreds of pounds worth of stock with out-of-date packaging due to a short-term change in supplier, however it is important you take reasonable steps to advise customers of any changes.

Website and social media

We accept that many have seen fundamental changes to the way they do business, with many staff now home working. We advise all businesses to review your advertising including websites and other online platforms. We suggest you review the following:

  • Opening hours.
  • Any updates for your customers on your current situation.
  • Terms and conditions including cancellation policy/returns policy.
  • Your business model – do your customers fully understand what you can do and cannot do?
  • Delivery times including next day delivery.
  • Telephone support – are your opening hours up to date?
  • Product testing are there any issues?
  • Supply chain integrity are there any issues?
  • Communication policy – you may need to update your customers on any new procedures introduced or news ways of trading.
  • Publication of your COVID-19 policy including a risk assessment you may want to display this on your website/social media and at your place of business.

Switching to telephone sales, online selling and home deliveries

You may want to adapt your business model during the current pandemic. There are separate rules for home deliveries, and this will involve providing certain information, making any delivery charges clear and having simple ways for customers to contact you.

There will be a lot of variation depending on what you’re selling and how you are selling. See our business advice guides for information on distance and home deliveries.

If you operate a food business, see our information on allergens if you decide to offer a takeaway or home delivery service.

See also Consumer Contracts – Off Premises Sales and age-restricted products.

Displaying delivery charges when delivering goods to customers

If your business is delivering goods to customers through a distance sale, you need to make sure that the information relating to delivery charges is clearly displayed. For advice on what information needs to be provided to customers before they place their order see our guide Consumer contracts: distance sales. This includes information on delivery charges, cancellation and return delivery charges.

Cyber security

We are aware these are challenging times for business and we have seen an increase in the number of scams affecting businesses. To help individuals and businesses who are working from home stay safe online, information and advice is available from the National Cyber Security Centre including its Small Business Guide: Cyber Security.

Mental health

This is a stressful time for many, so looking after your physical and mental health is important. To help you cope, see the NHS guide to mental wellbeing while staying at home. People in the farming community can access help and support through FarmWell.

Business continuity planning

These are unsettling times, but it may be an opportunity to start planning and reviewing your current procedures. For example, consider:

  • Are there any lessons you can learn from COVID-19?
  • Do you need to review your operational procedures such as home working?
  • Are your supply chains resilient?
  • Reputational resilience – do you need to communicate with previous customers/attract new customers?
  • Do you need help and support to grow your business? For information and advice to help grow and develop your business, see the Heart of the South West Growth Hub.


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