Can I Refuse To Do Business with a Customer?

November 7, 2023

In general, businesses have the right to refuse service to customers or reject orders under certain circumstances, but there are legal and ethical considerations to keep in mind.

Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Discrimination: Businesses cannot refuse service or reject orders on the basis of characteristics protected by anti-discrimination laws. These characteristics may include race, colour, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, and more, depending on the jurisdiction. It is illegal to discriminate against customers on these grounds.
  2. Health and safety: Businesses can refuse service or reject orders if doing so is necessary to protect the health and safety of employees or other customers. For example, if a customer is acting aggressively, causing a disturbance, or refusing to wear a mask during a pandemic, a business may refuse service on those grounds. You can also refuse to allow a minor to buy alcohol and cigarettes. In the past, I (clearly an adult!) have once been refused to be allowed to buy alcohol when accompanied by my son, in case I was buying alcohol for him. Perhaps an over cautious approach by the supermarket concerned, but given it was close to a University,  I can understand their concerns.
  3. Capacity limitations: Businesses may refuse service or reject orders if they have reached their maximum capacity or if fulfilling an order would exceed their production capabilities. In such cases, it’s important to communicate this clearly to customers and not engage in arbitrary or discriminatory behaviour.
  4. Non-payment: If a customer fails to pay for products or services as agreed upon, businesses have the right to refuse further service until the outstanding balance is settled. This is a common practice in various industries, such as restaurants or retail.
  5. Unreasonable or disruptive behaviour: Businesses can refuse service to customers who engage in disruptive, unruly, or abusive behaviour that interferes with the operation of the business or negatively impacts other customers’ experiences.
  6. Private businesses: Private businesses, in general, have the right to set their own policies and make decisions about who they serve, as long as those decisions are not based on illegal discrimination.
  7. Selling outside of your agreed territory: if you are a distributor/retailer for a manufacturer in a specific country, then you must adhere to the terms of your contract. Your website Ts & Cs should clearly state this so that customers are aware. In this instance, you can refuse to supply orders to a country outside of your territory and can refer the customer to the relevant company that deals with their region/country.

It’s essential for businesses to be aware of the laws and regulations that apply in their specific jurisdiction, as anti-discrimination laws and other regulations can vary from place to place.

Additionally, businesses should have clear and consistent policies in place regarding when and why they might refuse service or reject orders. Transparency and fairness in implementing such policies are crucial to avoid legal issues and maintain a positive reputation.

Have you had problems when you refused to supply to a customer?



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