Google Trusted Stores Merchant Guidelines
Customer Complaints and Refunds
Technical Overview and Requirements
LAST UPDATED: AUGUST 21, 2013
The Google Trusted Stores program (the "Program") is designed to help customers easily find merchants who offer a superior online shopping experience.
Merchants who are accepted into the Program can become eligible to display the Program badge on pages of their websites to let shoppers know that they offer reliable shipping and great customer service.
When a customer completes an order with a Merchant who has been deemed eligible to display the badge on their website, the customer will be offered the opportunity on the order confirmation page to have their order protected by Google. This protection helps ensure a great shopping experience for customers. In the unlikely event that a customer is unable to resolve an order issue with a participating store, they can ask Google to help resolve the issue. Google will work with you to make sure the customer is satisfied.
Merchants participating in the Program ("Merchants") are required to adhere to the rules and requirements in these Merchant guidelines. Google monitors several aspects of a Merchant’s performance and defines minimum performance standards for the Program. Failure to comply with these guidelines or to meet the minimum standards may result in revocation of a Merchant’s eligibility for participation in the Program and termination of the Merchant’s Trusted Stores Program Agreement (the "Agreement"). For the avoidance of doubt, a Merchant’s participation in the Program and an order’s eligibility for the Program is at all times at Google’s sole discretion, and such participation may be revoked or suspended by Google at any time.
Because we may change these guidelines from time to time, please check here often for updates. You can determine when we last changed these guidelines by referring to the "LAST UPDATED" date above. Pursuant to the Agreement, it is each Merchant’s responsibility to keep up to date with and adhere to these guidelines.
The following criteria apply to Merchants wishing to participate in the Program; additional restrictions apply to certain orders:
US Merchants Only
Only US-based Merchants selling items priced in US Dollars are eligible for the Program. Google may modify the territorial scope of the Program (including with respect to Merchant location, customer locations and permitted currencies) at any time.
The Merchant’s site content and customer support must be in English.
Google Trusted Stores Policies
Merchants participating in the Program must comply with the Google Trusted Stores Policies. Violation of our policies may result in Merchant’s disqualification from the Program. If a policy is violated and a prohibited item is nonetheless sold, Google may retroactively declare as ineligible for the Program any orders for prohibited items.
One Account Only
Merchants may not create or maintain duplicate, back-up, replacement, or reserve profiles in the Program. Merchants may register only one Program account per domain.
Some Merchants operate multiple domains. Merchants may register each domain as an individual Merchant in the Program, in which case Google may treat each domain as a separate Merchant. Alternatively, Merchants may aggregate multiple domains into one Program account. In the case of an aggregated account where performance across each domain is materially similar, Google may elect to display aggregate metrics across all such aggregated domains. In the case where performance differs materially from one domain to another, Google may request the merchant create a separate merchant account for each domain, as appropriate.
Merchant Is Merchant of Record; Transactions on Third-Party Websites
Merchant must be the merchant and seller of record for at least 80% of the transactions that are initiated from or on Merchant’s site. To the extent that any transactions initiated from or on Merchant’s site are completed on a third-party website, Merchant is fully responsible for such transactions as if they occurred entirely on Merchant’s site (except in cases where the owner of that third-party website is also a participating merchant in the Program), and such transactions will be subject to the Agreement and these guidelines. Feedback that Google receives regarding any transactions initiated from or on a Merchant’s site that are completed on a third-party website may negatively impact the Merchant’s own eligibility for the Program. If any such third-party website is disapproved, suspended or disqualified from the Program, Google may elect to disapprove, suspend or disqualify Merchant from the Program.
Google may conduct ongoing tests, including multivariate tests, to all components of the icons, logos, messaging, data, and other elements of the Program. Merchants do not have editorial control over the tests.
Merchant Profile, Logo, and Contact Information
Changes to the Program
Google may (i) change, suspend or discontinue the Program, in whole or in part, at any time in its sole discretion, including to perform maintenance or updates to the Program and (ii) impose limits on certain features or restrict access to parts or all of the Program, in each case without notice and without liability.
No Hard-Coded Elements; Use of Google Materials
Under no circumstances may any of the Program’s or Google’s logos, icons, or functionality be “hard-coded” on the Merchant’s website. Merchants may not under any circumstance display images, screenshots, iconography, or other visual or written elements that in Google’s opinion imply the Merchant is a participant in the Program other than as provided and approved by Google in advance. The only acceptable integration of the Program’s or Google’s materials is through the Program’s code as described in these policies.
No Obscuring Visual Elements of the Program
Merchants must not allow any of the visual elements of the Program to be obscured by any other content or material on their sites.
Merchant must not restrict any online customer from viewing the Program’s visual elements, regardless of the product being ordered or the quantity of items ordered. Merchant may not selectively show or hide the Program’s visual elements, whether as part of a Merchant-controlled A/B test or for any other purpose. Google may restrict the display of the Program’s visual elements on Merchant’s site at any time for any reason.
No Bill Before Shipment
For credit and debit card purchases, Merchants may not capture payment until 1 business day in advance of the expected ship date, unless (i) the order is for a product that is custom-manufactured or non-cancelable; or (ii) Google otherwise consents to an earlier timeframe based on the merchant's business model. For items with longer lead times, Merchants may authorize the charge at the time of order and renew authorizations as necessary until the item is ready for shipment. If a Merchant captures payment for an item that later becomes delayed beyond 1 business day of capturing payment, Merchant must refund the customer until the item is once again ready for shipment within 1 business day.
US Shipping Addresses Only
Only orders shipped to the fifty United States and the District of Columbia are eligible for the Program. Google may attempt to suppress the Program’s visual elements to users accessing a Merchant’s website from outside the US; however this action is taken as a convenience only.
Orders shipped to Post Office Boxes are ineligible for the Program.
Voice/Telephone or Mail Orders
Only customers who complete their order online and affirmatively opt in to the Program will be eligible for the Program. Orders placed via telephone, mail, fax and any other non-online means are ineligible for the Program.
Orders paid via virtual currency are ineligible for the Program.
Transactions may be ineligible for the Program, including (but not limited to) fraudulent transactions and ineligible shipping addresses and locations, currencies, language and product categories. If a customer’s order is ineligible for the Program, but the customer nevertheless elects to participate in the Program and the customer later escalates the order for assistance, Google may, at its sole discretion, attempt to provide assistance resolving the issue as a courtesy and the Merchant shall assist Google, but in no case will the order be eligible for any other protection or coverage implied by the Program.
Only Merchants who meet the performance standards set forth below are eligible to display the badge on their sites; however, such eligibility is not a guarantee that Google will permit Merchants to display the badge or otherwise participate in the Program.
If a Merchant’s ratings do not meet the required standards, Google may suppress or remove the visual elements of the Program from the Merchant's site; after such time, orders on the Merchant's site will be ineligible for the Program.
|On-Time Shipping||At least 90% or more of all shipments must be shipped by the estimated ship date provided by the Merchant at the time of purchase|
|Order Coverage||At least 85% of the total orders placed on Merchant's domain(s) ("Submitted Orders") must be accounted for in one of the following ways:
|Cancellation Rate||No more than 6% of all Submitted Orders may be cancelled.* Cancelled orders must be submitted with one of four possible cancellation reasons: Customer Request, Duplicate or Invalid Order, Merchant Unable to Fulfill, Fraudulent Order.|
|Transaction Volume||Merchant must process at least 200 Submitted Orders on a rolling 28-day basis.|
At least 50% of all shipments must have a verifiable tracking number from a supported shipping carrier. Supported carriers include UPS, FedEx, and The United States Postal Service (USPS).
When the Merchant provides a valid tracking number, Google may validate tracking numbers with shipping carriers and receive information about the shipment including (but not limited to) pickup date. Please note: 1) we do not currently support UPS Mail Innovations, 2) merchants must ensure that USPS shipments are trackable.
|Avg. Time to Shipment||The average time it takes for orders to be shipped must not exceed 10 days.|
|Secondary Escalation Rate (customers claiming initial concern was not resolved by Merchant)||No more than 1 in 5,000 protected orders should be escalated by customers claiming that their initial concern was not resolved by Merchant.|
|Refund Resolution (refunds compelled by Google)||No more than 1 in 15,000 protected orders should result in a refund to the customer from the Merchant as compelled by Google.|
* Google requires low cancellation rates to ensure an excellent customer experience. Google may, in its sole discretion, allow merchants with higher cancellation rates to participate in the Program if Google determines that these merchants 1) deliver a consistently excellent customer experience, and 2) have a unique business model that necessitates a higher cancellation rate.
Exceptions to Standard Criteria
A Merchant may request an exception from one or more of the Program’s eligibility criteria, and Google may grant such request if Google determines, in its sole discretion, that application of such criteria do not accurately reflect or are not representative of the quality of the Merchant’s operations. If an exception is granted, it may be contingent on Google’s ability to track an alternate metric which more accurately reflects the quality of the Merchant. For example, Merchants who hand deliver products may be granted an exception to the trackable shipments requirement (see “Trackable Shipments” in the table above), contingent upon Google capturing sufficient customer feedback on an ongoing basis to assess the quality of the delivery experience. Any exceptions are solely at Google’s discretion.
Timeframes for Performance Monitoring
Google may monitor Merchant performance on a number of different timeframes, including but not limited to a 28-day rolling average, and shows metrics in the badge flyover on a 90-day rolling average; however Google may make determinations regarding Merchant’s adherence to Program performance requirements based on any timeframe that Google chooses in its sole discretion.
Metrics and Data Verification
To further assess the Merchant’s shipping and service quality, Google may contact or encourage other parties, including customers and carriers, to provide feedback or to validate data provided by the Merchant at any point in time. Information about a merchant provided by third parties may impact the merchant’s eligibility for the Program.
If Google reasonably suspects that Merchant has manipulated performance data or any other data provided to Google in connection with Merchant’s participation in the Program, Google may suspend Merchant’s participation in the Program.
If a customer's order results in recurring charges for recurring shipments, only the initial shipment will be used by Google to calculate Merchant's performance metrics and be eligible for purchase protection. However, if a customer escalates subsequent orders for assistance, Google may, at its sole discretion, attempt to provide assistance resolving the issue as a courtesy, but in no case will the subsequent order be eligible for any other protection or coverage implied by the Program.
Minimum Response Timeframes
Merchants are expected to respond to Google in a timely manner. Specifically related to customer issues, Merchants are expected to respond to and resolve customer concerns in accordance with the standards set forth below.
If Google feels (in its sole discretion) that the Merchant’s responsiveness is negatively impacting the customer experience, Google may suppress or remove the visual elements of the Program from the Merchant's site; after such time, orders on the Merchant's site will be ineligible for the Program. However, the Merchant is still required to resolve issues with any protected orders and assist Google in any such escalation.
|Escalation Response Time||Merchant must acknowledge and respond to Google and customer within 1 business day|
|Escalation Resolution Time||Average escalation resolution time may not exceed 3 business days|
If Google determines the customer is not required to return the item: 100% of refunds within 2 business days
If Google determines the customer is required to return the item: 100% of refunds issued within 6 business days of receipt of returned item at Merchant's warehouse
Building a Performance History
After submission of an application and code integration, Merchants will be placed in a monitor-only mode while Google collects sufficient data to evaluate the Merchant’s performance. During this time, the Merchant must maintain full integration of all Program code, and must transmit tracking numbers on all online orders. To assess the Merchant’s service levels, Google may display visual elements of the Program and may contact or encourage customers to provide feedback. However, customer orders will be ineligible for the Program. Please note that in addition to monitoring shipping information, Google may consult a variety of data sources in determining the Merchant's eligibility for the Program. Google may, in its sole discretion, request that the Merchant provide additional documentation including, but not limited to, historical payment processing statements, customer service data, and shipping-related data and certifications. No action is required by the Merchant to emerge from monitor-only mode. Google shall display the badge on the merchant’s site and offer customers the opportunity to opt in the Program via Merchant’s site only upon Merchant meeting all Program requirements.
Displaying the Badge: Monitor-Only Mode; Minimum Time and Order Volume
No action is required by the Merchant to emerge from monitor-only mode. Google must be able to monitor performance metrics for a minimum of 28 days and/or 500 shipped orders, and the Merchant must meet all Program requirements, before Google displays the badge on Merchant’s site or offers customers the opportunity to opt in to the Program via Merchant’s site.
Failure to Meet Performance Standards; Suspension from the Program
Merchants are responsible for ensuring their full compliance with Program requirements, including meeting all of the performance standards set forth in these guidelines. If a Merchant fails to meet a particular performance standard, Google may elect to either (a) suspend the Merchant from the Program or (b) work with the Merchant to improve the Merchant’s performance prior to suspending the Merchant. If, after working with the Merchant, Google determines that the Merchant’s performance does not meet the Program’s performance standards, Google may suspend the Merchant from the Program. Upon suspension from the Program, the Program badge will not appear on Merchant’s site, but Google may continue to evaluate Merchant’s performance to determine whether to reinstate Merchant. The duration of any Merchant suspension from the Program will be in Google’s sole discretion. If a Merchant believes the drop in performance does not reflect the Merchant’s general, longer-term performance, the Merchant may request an exception to the suspension. Any exceptions are entirely at Google’s discretion.
Customer Complaints and Refunds
Customers are encouraged to communicate directly with Merchants to resolve problems. However, if a customer is unable to resolve a problem with a Merchant directly, they may seek Google’s assistance. These guidelines describe a Merchant’s obligations during the escalations and refund process.
Unless clearly indicated on the Merchant’s product page and the customer's invoice or receipt, all items sold by Merchants are assumed to be in new condition. Google may snapshot the Merchant’s product page at the time of order for reference in the event of a dispute. Merchants selling products which are used, refurbished, floor models, or otherwise not brand new are advised to ensure they sufficiently communicate the product condition to customers to avoid potential disputes.
No-Fee Cancellation on Late Shipments
Merchants must ship items within 3 business days of the original estimated ship date provided at time of order or provide a no-fee cancellation option if requested by the customer. Customers must request cancellation directly with the Merchant, not via Google. If a customer requests cancellation on a late order, Merchants have 3 additional business days to remedy the situation by either a) shipping the item and providing a tracking number to the customer and Google or b) canceling the order.
If the Merchant fails to remedy the problem as described above and the Merchant nevertheless ships the order at a later date, the customer is entitled to the option of returning the items (in new condition) according to the Merchant’s normal return procedure; however the customer shall not pay any fees related to the return.
If the customer does not cancel a late order and the late order is then shipped, the Merchant’s normal terms and policies apply.
Proof of Shipment
Google relies on a unique, verifiable tracking number and Carrier name as proof of shipment. It is the Merchant’s obligation to provide this information as described in the Fulfillment section of the policies.
Proof of Delivery
Google relies, in part, on the package status as reported by the Carrier to determine if an item was delivered.
- For items below $250, the carrier’s website must say “delivered,” “left by [location],” or other similarly unambiguous text noting the package was delivered to the shipping address; if a carrier does not have a website, Google may communicate with the carrier verbally, digitally, or by fax to obtain similar delivery status information.
- For items above $250, Google requires signature confirmation for proof of delivery. Items shipped without signature proof of delivery will be capped at a $250 Merchant reimbursement limit even if the conditions above are met. For avoidance of doubt, this means that if an item valued above $250 is shipped without signature proof of delivery and the customer files a dispute and Google finds in favor of the customer for a refund of more than $250, the Merchant may claim a maximum reimbursement of $250 from Google.
- If no valid tracking number is provided, the item will be assumed undelivered in the event of a customer dispute.
Customers may ask for Google’s help if they are having trouble with an order eligible for the Program.
Google recognizes that top-performing Merchants frequently resolve customer problems on their own, and would like to encourage customers to work with the Merchant first to resolve the problem directly. When a customer seeks help from Google, Google first provides the customer with the Merchant’s contact information and asks the customer to contact the Merchant directly. Google may also provide the customer with a copy of the Merchant’s customer-facing terms and policies from the time of the order.
If the customer indicates they have been unable to reach satisfactory resolution directly with the Merchant, customers may file an escalated claim with Google via the Google Trusted Stores customer account. Once a claim has been filed, Google may engage directly with the customer or Merchant at any point in its sole discretion. Throughout the escalation process, the Merchant must respond to any question or request from Google within a maximum of 1 business day.
When an escalated claim is filed, the following process beings:
- The escalated claim is forwarded to the Merchant via email and appears in the Merchant's Program account.
- The Merchant must work with the customer to resolve the problem. The Merchant is expected to acknowledge the claim and respond to Google and the customer within 1 business day, and resolve the issue within 4 business days.
- Google may contact the customer to confirm the resolution:
- as soon as the Merchant has updated the complaint in the account; or
- at any other time, when Google believes that the issue may have been resolved.
If the matter is still unresolved after 4 business days or if the customer disputes the Merchant's resolution or if the Merchant has not responded to a question or request from Google within 1 business day or, otherwise, if Google chooses, in its sole discretion, the following process begins:
- Google will arbitrate based on available information.
- Google will inform all parties of its decision. If Google determines (in its sole discretion) that a refund is due to the customer, see Refunds Process below.
Incorrect, Broken, Defective, or Damaged Products
At the Merchant’s option, Merchants may resolve problems with incorrect, broken, defective, or damaged products by letting the customer choose between:
- receiving a replacement unit of the identical make and model as the original item ordered at no additional cost to the customer; or
- returning the broken item by following the Merchant’s Return Policy; however the customer shall not be required to pay for return shipping or any restocking fee.
If Google determines a refund is due to the customer, the Merchant must initiate a refund to the customer for the amount instructed by Google. The refund amount may be up to the full order value including shipping and tax. In lieu of a refund, the Merchant may provide proof that the customer has already been refunded via a chargeback.
Merchants must initiate the refund within the following time limits:
- Within 2 business days.
- If Google determines the customer received the item, Google may require the customer to return the item to the Merchant. Merchants must process the return and initiate the refund within 6 business days of receiving the item.
The Merchant must provide proof of the refund or chargeback to Google via the Merchant’s Program account within 2 business days. No delay for any reason may be taken in processing the customer refund.
Merchants failing to process refunds and provide proof of the refund or chargeback within 2 business days will be subject to immediate revocation of their eligibility for participation in the Program.
All refunds must be made by the Merchant via the customer’s original form of payment. To prove a refund has been issued, Google requires:
- by check: a photocopy or scan of the original check; or
- by credit card: authorization ID, transaction ID, amount, and settlement date for the refund; or
- if a customer has initiated a chargeback with their credit card company, the Merchant may either refund the customer or provide evidence that the chargeback has been resolved in the customer’s favor.
- If the Merchant feels any final decision made by Google during the customer complaint resolution process was not in accordance with the Merchant’s customer-facing terms and policies (for example, if Google requires Merchant to issue a customer refund that is expressly not required under Merchant’s customer-facing refund policy), Merchant may appeal Google’s decision via the Merchant’s Program account. Appeals must be made within 7 days of the complaint resolution decision by Google.
- Google will review the Merchant’s appeal and may, in Google’s sole discretion, decide to modify the appealed decision. The Merchant may submit additional information and arguments to explain its opinion regarding the decision.
- If Google finds in favor of the Merchant after reviewing Merchant’s appeal, Google will reimburse the Merchant within 30 days after such finding for the refund amount issued to the customer by the Merchant (but never exceeding the full order value including shipping), subject to reimbursement limitations defined in the Agreement.
No Change of Address
Due to fraud risk, Merchants are advised not to permit consignee re-routing of packages during transit. If a package is re-routed and a customer claims it was not received, Google may assume the package was not received (even if the shipping report indicates delivery, including a signature by the consignee), and the Merchant may be held responsible for replacement cost or a full refund.
Requests by the recipient to have the carrier divert a package to hold for pickup at a carrier operated location are acceptable provided the carrier requires a signature for pickup.
If a product is damaged in shipping, Google will determine responsibility for remedying the problem based on the Merchant’s customer-facing terms and policies. Merchants may require specific actions by customers, including (but not limited to) the requirement to refuse delivery, the requirement to file a damage claim with the carrier, the requirement to send photo evidence of shipping damage, or an overall waiver of Merchant liability for shipping damage. If the Merchant does not specify the customer’s required actions in the event of shipping damage, Google will consider the Merchant responsible for shipping damage.
Google Contacting Customers
Google may contact customers for reasons including:
- Program confirmation - to send customer confirmation details on the Program and instructions on how to seek help.
- Feedback solicitation - to determine the customer’s satisfaction about the product, the Merchant, or shipping, including, for example, a post-purchase survey.
- Cancellation and shipping confirmation - to confirm the reason for cancellation or to validate an untrackable shipment.
- Throughout the escalation process - if a customer has filed an escalation, multiple contacts may be required to seek resolution.
Program Is Not A Product Warranty
The Program applies only to the transaction:
- It is not a product warranty of any kind; and
- It is not a means for customers to circumvent a Merchant’s return policy.
Technical Overview and Requirements
Merchants must integrate certain code on their website that allows Google to monitor website activity and transactions and to display the Program’s visual elements. Merchants must also provide shipment tracking information to Google so Google can evaluate shipping performance. The following describes the integration requirements.
Program Badge on Every Page
Order Confirmation Page
Transaction Information and Opt-In Module
Merchants must include the required Program code on their order confirmation page to transmit transaction information to Google and to allow customers to opt in to the Program.
Merchants must transmit to Google via Program code complete transaction information for each order placed on their site, including, but not limited to, the estimated ship date(s) and customer e-mail.
3rd Party Payment Exception
If Merchants allow customers to pay via any of the 3rd party payment processes listed below, shoppers may be redirected temporarily off the Merchant’s website to enter payment information. The requirement to include code for the Program’s visual elements does not apply to pages served by these 3rd party payment processing websites:
- PayPal™ (unless it redirects back to the Merchant site);
- Amazon Payments™;
- eBillMe™; and
- Google Checkout/Wallet
In all cases, the Merchant is required to:
- include code for the visual elements on the landing page when the customer returns to the Merchant’s site
- transmit the order confirmation details to Google, providing the customer with the opportunity to opt in for the purchase protection provided by the Program.
Shipment Tracking Numbers
Merchants must share the shipment tracking number and carrier name with Google. The tracking numbers must be shared with Google as quickly as possible, but in no event later than 2 business days after the Merchant becomes aware of the tracking number. Merchants may upload tracking numbers via the Merchant’s Program account or via a data feed. Merchant data feeds must be updated daily to ensure accurate shipping calculations.
Unless previously approved by Google in writing, Merchants must notify Google when an order has been cancelled and will not ship, and must provide cancellation reasons for orders. When Merchants provide Google with cancelled order data, Google will count such orders towards the Order Coverage threshold (see “Order Coverage” section above). However, if a Merchant fails to notify Google that an order has cancelled within 2 business days from the time Merchant becomes aware of the cancellation, such order will not be considered for the purpose of calculating the Merchant’s Order Coverage.
Cancellation reasons and corresponding codes:
|Cancellation Reason||Cancellation Code||Additional Notes|
|Customer Request||BuyerCanceled||Unless the request is due to the order not being fulfilled as initially promised by the Merchant|
|Duplicate or Invalid Order||DuplicateInvalid|
|Merchant Unable to Fulfill||MerchantCanceled||Unless the cancellation is required for one of the following reasons: -compliance with legal requirements|
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