Home > Consumer Rights > An Overview of the UK E-Commerce Regulations

An Overview of the UK E-Commerce Regulations

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 22 Mar 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Overview E-commerce Uk E-commerce

The term 'e-commerce' refers to transactions that are made and concluded through electronic means, such as digital television, mobile phones or the Internet. Alongside information sharing, e-commerce is widely thought to be the most revolutionary aspects of the Internet, consumerism and modern living.

There are two different variations of e-commerce that are carried out worldwide, known as direct and indirect e-commerce. Direct e-commerce relates to goods or services that can be received immediately, such as software downloads, or mp3 files. So, as you'd probably expect, indirect e-commerce refers to goods or services that are purchased online but delivered offline via courier or post. In light of the growth of both these types of online shopping, a series of EC Directives were adopted by the European Union to help protect consumers within their jurisdiction. In UK law the EU E-Commerce Directive was put into action in the guise of the E-Commerce Regulations in 2002.

So as far as online shopaholics are concerned, the regulations apply to online sales and advertising services, as well as services carried out via email and SMS (text message). The regulations also ensure that electronic contracts are legally binding and that consumers are provided with certain information regarding your business and your adopted codes of conduct.

Company Details

Businesses that fall under the umbrella of the E-Commerce Regulations have to comply with a certain amount of information sharing with their consumers. These businesses include those that sell services or goods over the Internet, or through other electronic means such as email and SMS. This includes your company name and a physical address. Providing just a PO Box address is not deemed acceptable. Other information that needs to be provided includes contact details, including an email address. If providing a 'contact us' form, a seller should still provide a contact email address.

The seller also has to provide details of membership with any society, professional body that they belong to, or other publicly available register that they appear on. If the company is subject to an accreditation or authorisation scheme, then details purporting to that supervisory body must also be provided. If VAT registered, then it is expected that the company should also clearly state their VAT number. As of 1st January 2007, it is compulsory to provide additional information such as a company registration, as outlined in the Companies Act 2006.

Pricing

The E-Commerce Regulations are very clear on the pricing policy that all relevant companies and service providers should adopt. The basis of the regulations states that any prices referred to on the website should state whether they include 'hidden' charges such as VAT and delivery costs.

Contracts

A large part of the E-Commerce Regulations focuses on the forming of contracts. The regulations state that electronic contracts should be able to be completed online, and that the consumer has the right and the ability to revise any mistakes in their order prior to making their purchase (their conclusion of the contract). Once the order is placed, confirmation of the order and all relevant information including terms and conditions, delivery times and prices should be sent to the consumer without 'undue delay'.

The online ordering process is the most common form of contract made between a seller and a consumer. During this process, the seller is legally obliged to comply with a few fundamental points, including the provision to the consumer of all the steps involved in their ordering process. Sellers must also supply their consumers with information relating to their contract, including whether the seller will file the electronic contract and if it is readily accessibly by the consumer. Finally, sellers should also inform their customers of any codes of conduct that they adhere to, and information on how the customer can electronically consult them.

Advertising and Email

The final key points that the E-Commerce Regulations covers relates to advertising and commercial communications. Any business wishing to partake in advertising on the Internet must comply with certain terms as outlined by the Regulations. One aspect of the regulations states that any type of commercial communication should be clearly identifiable as such by the consumer or recipient. The advertisement - usually via email - must also include the name of the intended recipient to which the communication was sent alongside the promotional offer.

The Regulations also relate to that much-maligned visitor to the Inbox, the unsolicited or 'spam' email. Such unsolicited commercial communications are actually supposed to be clearly identifiable as unsolicited, and in theory the contents of the email should be made clear in the subject line, removing any further need to open the email.

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[Add a Comment]
Goatman - Your Question:
I bought a voucher from wowcher for a 'prosecco brunch' in Manchester. I telephoned the restaurant and made a booking for Monday 20th April, the last date for using the voucher being the 22nd. When we found the restaurant it was closed and clearly had been for some time it was in a mess,with what was left of its equipment piled up inside (I have photos) and the opening hours shown in the window said "Mondays - Closed all day".I exchanged e mails with wowcher who were quite dismissive but offered to credit my account with half the fee, and then the full amount "for goodwill" saying that they were only contracted to sell me the voucher and were not in breach of contract. I wanted some small gesture of compensation for travelling expenses, loss of my partner's earning and the huge waste of time and disappointment. Where do I stand?Goatman

Our Response:
Your consumer rights will only cover a refund (effectively for faulty goods). Anything above that you will need to ask for separately or thruohg the courts.
OnlineShoppingRights - 23-Mar-17 @ 12:27 PM
I bought a voucher from wowcher for a 'prosecco brunch' in Manchester. I telephoned the restaurant and made a booking for Monday 20th April, the last date for using the voucher being the 22nd. When we found the restaurant it was closed and clearly had been for some time it was in a mess,with what was left of its equipment piled up inside (I have photos) and the opening hours shown in the window said "Mondays - Closed all day". I exchanged e mails with wowcher who were quite dismissive but offered to credit my account with half the fee, and then the full amount "for goodwill" saying that they were only contracted to sell me the voucher and were not in breach of contract.I wanted some small gesture of compensation for travelling expenses, loss of my partner's earning and the huge waste of time and disappointment.Where do I stand? Goatman
Goatman - 22-Mar-17 @ 7:23 PM
EMM - Your Question:
I ordered 2 lampshades from Dunelm which were delivered free of charge as over £50. Items were not the right size or colour so I returned them myself to the shop - not local, but within 15 miles. I paid with PayPal as one of 2 options on the website but the store said the policy was only to give a credit note for PayPal! This is not stated on the main page of the website when I was ordering, but only on a tiny secondary page. If I'd known I'd have used my Visa card. Do I have the right to insist on a cash refund?

Our Response:
The terms and conditions to state this quite clearly: "The quickest and easiest way is to return your order to a Dunelm store. Step 1: Simply use our Store Locator to locate your nearest store Step 2: Take the product(s) and despatch note, with the payment card used to purchase, to the Customer Services desk where your purchase will be refunded or an exchange arranged. If you return a product that was ordered using PayPal, you will be issued with a credit note for the value of the item."
It then goes on to reitterate this "For items purchased online using PayPal and returned to store for a refund you will be issued with a credit note." If you had returned the items via collect + or post you would have received a refund to as a credit to your paypal account. The staff in the store could have made you aware of this when you went into the store to return them.
OnlineShoppingRights - 20-Mar-17 @ 2:13 PM
I ordered 2 lampshades from Dunelm which were delivered free of charge as over £50. Items were not the right size or colour so I returned them myself to the shop - not local, but within 15 miles. I paid with PayPal as one of 2 options on the website but the store said the policy was only to give a credit note for PayPal! This is not stated on the main page of the website when I was ordering, but only on a tiny secondary page. If I'd known I'd have used my Visa card. Do I have the right to insist on a cash refund?
EMM - 17-Mar-17 @ 8:05 PM
Pinkbob - Your Question:
Hi there,I bought a Cerutti jumper online from ventee prive, an online branded sale website. Their delivery times are really long after the order is placed. I received my items in late November 2016 wore the jumper for the first time in February 2017. The first time I wore it, it completely ripped off on its own below the armpit all the way to the waist. I got in touch with them informing it was an extremely poor quality product and requested refund. They refuse to do so telling me I can only return within 14 days of delivery. I have tried to explain them that on arrival the product looked fine and I did not predict that the quality would be so poor and would tear off on its first wear. Please could you let me know if I have any rights as a consumer to return a poor quality item, which totally ripped on its first wear within an hour or so.Many thanks

Our Response:
The rights to return an item purchased online are only for 14 days following receipt of the item. If the goods are faulty you can return within 30 days of receipt for a full refund. Between 30 days and 6 months, if your item was clearly faulty/not fit for purpose at the time of purchase, the retailer should offer a repair or replacment.
OnlineShoppingRights - 1-Mar-17 @ 10:17 AM
Hi there, I bought a Cerutti jumper online from ventee prive, an online branded sale website. Their delivery times are really long after the order is placed. I received my items in late November 2016 wore the jumper for the first time in February 2017. The first time I wore it, it completely ripped off on its own below the armpit all the way to the waist. I got in touch with them informing it was an extremely poor quality product and requested refund. They refuse to do so telling me I can only return within 14 days of delivery. I have tried to explain them that on arrival the product looked fine and I did not predict that the quality would be so poor and would tear off on its first wear. Please could you let me know if I have any rights as a consumer to return a poor quality item, which totally ripped on its first wear within an hour or so. Many thanks
Pinkbob - 26-Feb-17 @ 9:26 PM
Bought a hoodie online but it is too big.Been asked to return it to a Leeds uk address but think the hoodie was sent from China. The company are saying they will only give a credit note as item was in the sale. Under the consumer contract regulations I should be able to get a full refund.Shall I send back and ask for a refund and hope for the best.Who do I complain to about company's practices?Thanks for any help
Millerde - 31-Jan-17 @ 9:04 PM
I bought an LG G4 phone in August 2015. I saw it on Hot Deals who redirected me to Rakuten. A firm like Amazon market place. The online shop I actually bought the phone from was Expansys.After a few months the phone died and I was advised to return it to LG for a repair by Expansys. Which I did, and the repair was sucessful.Now in December, 2016, just under one year from the repair and about sixteen months since I bought the phone, the phone has died again. I now read online that there is a recognised manufacturing fault with this phone. The motherboard fails if it overheats.I have contacted LG and Expansys, and I am waiting for a reply.Rakuten have gone bust.
RobinMichael - 19-Dec-16 @ 5:25 AM
daz - Your Question:
Hello,I have sent 2 pairs of trainers back to China as were cheap trainers to what I ordered and the wrong size on both. I was told not to send the trainers back as would probs get stopped at customs so I should keep them and order some other trainers for 60% reduction?I have asked a few times now via email to a refund but falling on death ears.I paid approx. £140 on 2 pairs of trainers, have copies of the orders and email conversations and sent the trainers back to the senders address as the trainers were no good to me I knew no one who is a 9 and a half shoe.I paid for the goods by debit card.Advice very much appreciated.Daz

Our Response:
You could try contacting the bank (which adminsters the card you paid on) to see if they can do anything but it's unlikley they'll be able to. Our consumer rights laws for returning goods bought online do not apply to China. So unless you bought them from ebay or Amazon both of which have mechanisms in place for this, it will be really difficult to do anything.
OnlineShoppingRights - 6-Oct-16 @ 12:38 PM
Hello, I have sent 2 pairs of trainers back to China as were cheap trainers to what I ordered and the wrong size on both. I was told not to send the trainers back as would probs get stopped at customs so I should keep them and order some other trainers for 60% reduction? I have asked a few times now via email to a refund but falling on death ears. I paid approx. £140 on 2 pairs of trainers, have copies of the orders and email conversations and sent the trainers back to the senders address as the trainers were no good to me I knew no one who is a 9 and a half shoe. I paid for the goods by debit card. Advice very much appreciated. Daz
daz - 5-Oct-16 @ 2:55 AM
AB - Your Question:
Bought a tshirt online, it didn't fit so I sent it back and asked for a different size. I got the new one and it was not the size I asked for. The tshirt was a birthday gift which I have had to buy elsewhere as I would not get further exchange on time, it also cost me to return the item. What are my rights under these circumstances?

Our Response:
As long as you were refunded for the items that you returned your rights have been fulfilled. You can be made to pay the cost of returning the item as long as this is clearly detailed in the online retailer's terms and conditions.
OnlineShoppingRights - 16-Sep-16 @ 2:42 PM
Bought a tshirt online, it didn't fit so i sent it back and asked for a different size. I got the new one and it was not the size i asked for. The tshirt was a birthday gift which i have had to buy elsewhere as i would not get further exchange on time, it also cost me to return the item. What are my rights under these circumstances?
AB - 15-Sep-16 @ 7:58 PM
CROG - Your Question:
I ordered a lamp from VOGA in June of last year. The lamp finally arrived in late october and fell apart when I put it together. I report this to the company and sent photos etc. they said they would replace the lamp. In June I reqested that they collect the lamp and refund me the cost and the postage. I have had no response.

Our Response:
Sorry it's not clear what's happpened here did they replace the lamp in October? Why do you want them to collect it now?
OnlineShoppingRights - 5-Jul-16 @ 11:44 AM
I ordered a lamp from VOGA in June of last year.The lamp finally arrived in late october and fell apart when I put it together.I report this to the company and sent photos etc.they said they would replace the lamp. In June I reqested that they collect the lamp and refund me the cost and the postage.I have had no response.
CROG - 4-Jul-16 @ 12:10 PM
feelrippedoff - Your Question:
Bought gin & vodka from Morrisons on line. Two days before delivery they called to say they had made a mistake and the offer should have been restricted to two bottles. accordingly they were reducing my order. Can they do this?

Our Response:
They can do this if there was a geniune mistake, but they must offer you a full refund if you want it.
OnlineShoppingRights - 27-May-16 @ 10:27 AM
bought gin & vodka from Morrisons on line. Two days before delivery they called to say they had made a mistake and the offer should have been restricted to two bottles. accordingly they were reducing my order. Can they do this?
feelrippedoff - 25-May-16 @ 7:23 PM
@maria. Goods must be delivered within the time frame you agree with the seller. If no time frame is agreed, the seller has 30 days from the day after they receive your order to deliver your goods. The exception is where something is custom made like furniture etc and then 8 weeks is considered a reasonable amount of time. You can cancel your order and expect a full refund if you have it in writing that your order would be delivered within a week.
OnlineShoppingRights - 12-Sep-14 @ 2:05 PM
I recently had a swimsuit made for me by a company online, I was told my order would be ready in a week which was plenty of time as I was not going on holiday for another four weeks, after a week no swimsuit then another week went by no swimsuit then another still no swimsuit so I emailed the company only to be told the material that I picked had not arrived but that I would definatly get it in time for my hols, as you can guess it did not arrive until the day I got back from my trip. I have emailed the company telling them that I am sending the swimsuit back and that I want a refund but the company is ignoring me. What are my rights?
mari - 11-Sep-14 @ 6:40 PM
I agree and I think you could add a section talking about payments policies. The big problem for e-commerce acceptance is trust. It's not easy to pay in advance to someone we don't know, but we know it is very hard to have our money back if the contract is not respected by the seller. There are no reason to pay before the product is disponible for dispatch! Good job, Abatista
Abatista - 15-Jul-14 @ 7:57 PM
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