Tesla has changed its return policy after CEO Elon Musk tweeted contradictory statements about how it works. The company told The Verge that the change was already in the works on Wednesday in response to questions about the tweet. Buyers will now be able to return a car within seven days (or before 1,000 miles) for a full refund regardless of whether or not they have taken a test drive with the company, contrary to the language that was on the company’s website before Wednesday.
Musk tweeted Wednesday that customers can return one of Tesla’s cars after seven days for a full refund, regardless of whether they’ve gotten a test ride or demo from the company. That claim seemingly clashed with Tesla’s official return policy, though, which clearly stated that the policy of seven-day full refunds only applies to customers who “haven’t test driven the car.”
That changed Wednesday evening, though. Tesla told The Verge there had been a delay in the language being updated on the website. A new return policy was posted to Tesla’s website shortly after the publication of this article.
Tesla originally updated its return policy on February 28th as part of the company’s push to close stores and shift to an online-only sales model. Before that, Tesla’s “standard return period” was “one (1) calendar day after delivery” for people who had taken a test drive, or “three (3) calendar days after delivery” for people who hadn’t. But the company also did away with test drives when it announced the new online-only sales model, so it added four extra days to that second possible return scenario. “[W]e understand that you may want additional time to get to know your vehicle,” the company says on the website.
Sometime after the February 28th change — the company declined to say specifically when — Tesla decided to allow seven day (or 1,000-mile) returns regardless of whether customers got a test drive. It wasn’t until Wednesday evening that the official return policy was updated to reflect this.
Wednesday was the third time this month Musk tweeted information that didn’t seem to line up with Tesla’s return policy. On March 16th, Musk said “To be clear, orders are fully refundable, even after you’ve had your Tesla for a week.” Later that day, he added “If someone really wants to return the car in good faith on day 8, that’s fine.”
The first tweet is ambiguous. The second tweet is accurate, a Tesla spokesperson said, and the new return policy now allows for “[e]xtenuating circumstances” to be “evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”
All three tweets in question underscore the tension between Musk’s Twitter usage and the company.
Musk is well known for his liberal use of Twitter. He often responds to fans who have customer feedback, and makes changes on the fly to Tesla’s products.
But it’s also gotten him in serious trouble. Last August, Musk tweeted that he was “considering taking Tesla private” if the company’s stock got to a price of $420 per share, and that he had “funding secured” to pull off the move. He abandoned the idea three weeks later.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) believed this constituted securities fraud because Tesla’s stock price went up on the news, and Musk’s tweet wasn’t accompanied by the proper notice required by Nasdaq rules. The SEC also found out Musk had no deal in place when he made the announcement. In September, it filed civil securities fraud charges against him.
Musk settled the charges, agreed to step down as chairman of Tesla, pay a $20 million fine, and have all public statements — tweets included — that could affect Tesla’s stock price (and its shareholders) vetted by a company lawyer. But he allegedly didn’t follow that last part, which is why the SEC recently tried to get him held in contempt of court for violating the settlement for a tweet posted in February.
Musk’s tweets about Tesla’s return policy seem to be the latest evidence that he hasn’t changed the way he uses Twitter. That’s apparently fine with Robyn Denholm, who replaced Musk as chairwoman of Tesla. “From my perspective, he uses [Twitter] wisely,” Denholm told Bloomberg today. “I don’t think he poses any challenges.”
Update March 27th, 9:14PM ET: Tesla updated the return policy language on its website after publication. This article has been updated to reflect that.