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If you are a trader who sells goods, services or digital content to a consumer then these Regulations will apply to you.
These Regulations come into effect on 13 June 2014 and apply to all contracts made on or after that date, save for a few specific exceptions such as gambling, financial services and the rental of residential premises. They replace the existing The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 and The Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer's Home or Place of Work etc Regulations 2008 which will cease to apply as from that date.
There are three types of agreement which a trader can enter into with a consumer. The type of contract and the traders' related obligations vary depending on whether the contract is signed at the traders' premises and/or whether the trader and consumer are both physically present at the time the contract is concluded.
The key obligations for traders are as follows:
- (a) Before the consumer is bound by the contract, the trader must provide the consumer with certain information as set out in the Regulations together with a cancellation form, if applicable.
- (b) Within a reasonable period of time after the conclusion of the contract but in any event not later than the time of delivery of the goods/before performance begins of any service supplied under the contract, the trader must give the consumer a copy of the signed contract or confirmation of the contract.
- (c) In distance contracts, where the contract is concluded by electronic means, if the contract places the consumer under an obligation to pay, the trader must provide additional information to the consumer as set out in the Regulations and make it explicitly clear that acknowledgment of the order imposes an obligation on the consumer to pay. Where placing an order entails activating a button or similar function, the trader must ensure that this is labelled in an easily legible manner making it clear that there is an obligation to pay.
- (d) In distance contracts, where the contract may be concluded by telephone, the trader must provide certain information to the consumer at the outset of the conversation and state the commercial reasons for the call.
Information to be provided by the trader
The information to be supplied varies depending on the type of contract. The key information to be supplied includes the following:
- The main characteristics of the goods or services to be supplied/provided.
- The identity of the trader including address and contact details.
- The total price for the goods/services or, where the nature of the contract is such that the price cannot reasonably be calculated in advance, the manner in which the price is to be calculated.
- Where applicable, any additional delivery charges.
- Where applicable, the arrangements for payment, delivery, performance and the time by which the trader undertakes to deliver the goods or to perform the service.
- Where applicable, the trader's complaints procedure.
- In the case of a sales contract, a reminder that the trader is under a legal duty to supply goods that conform with the contract.
- Where applicable, the existence and conditions of the after-sales services and commercial guarantees.
- Where applicable, the duration of the contract or where the contract is of indeterminate duration or is to be extended automatically, the conditions for terminating the contract.
- Where a right to cancel exists, the conditions, time limit and procedures for exercising that right together with details of any costs the consumer will have to bear if he chooses to ask the trader to proceed with the contract before the expiry of the cancellation period.
- Where applicable, that the consumer will have to bear the cost of returning the goods in the case of cancellation and, for distance contracts, if the goods, by their nature, cannot normally be returned by post, the cost of returning the goods.
- Where applicable, the existence of any relevant codes of conduct.
Right to cancel
Where the consumer has a right to cancel, the trader must provide the consumer with a written form of cancellation notice. The relevant period for cancellation, the so-called "cooling-off" period" is 14 days from the date when the contract was concluded. No reason has to be given by the consumer for his cancellation.
If the consumer does cancel the contract during the cooling-off period, the trader has to reimburse all payments received by the consumer including the costs of delivery, save for supplementary costs if the consumer chose a specific type of delivery over and above that offered as standard by the trader.
The trader may be able make a deduction from the sum reimbursed for loss in value of any goods supplied in certain circumstances. The reimbursement, which must be made using the same method of payment as the consumer used for the initial transaction, must not be unduly delayed. The Regulations go on to set out the latest date on which the reimbursement should be made which vary depending upon whether the contract is for the sale of goods or supply of services and whether the goods/services have been delivered/performed, the goods returned by the time of the cancellation and/or if the goods are to be collected by the trader.
Additional payments/help-line charges
No payment is payable in addition to that agreed for the trader's main obligation unless, before the consumer became bound by the contract, the trader obtained the consumer's express consent – a pre-ticked box on a website would not amount to having obtained the consumer's "express consent".
Any telephone line operated by the trader for the purpose of allowing consumers to contact the trader in relation to contracts entered into with the trader must not result in a charge to the consumer which exceeds the basic rate telephone charges – premium rate telephone lines are now prohibited.
Delivery of goods
If the contract is a sales contract, unless the trader and consumer have otherwise, agreed, the contract is to be treated as including a term that the trader must deliver the goods to the consumer. Unless there is an agreed time or period, the contract is to be treated as including a term that the trader must deliver the goods without undue delay and in any event, not more than 30 days after the day on which the contract is concluded.
Failure to comply/offences
In most circumstances if a trader fails to comply with the Regulations, the consumer can normally treat the contract as being at an end and the trader will be obliged to reimburse any monies which the consumer has been paid. An officer, and/or body corporate, who fails to comply with the obligations under the Regulations may be also guilty of an offence and may, upon conviction, be liable to a fine of up to £5,000.00.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.