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Understanding UK Distance Selling Rules

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 30 Nov 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Understanding Uk Distance Selling

The nature of shopping has changed dramatically within the last two decades. Shopping via mail catalogue order or by phone had been two means by which traders had been distance selling for some years. However, the advent of the Internet brought distance selling to the fore. The easy, flexible approach to online shopping meant that consumers were spoiled for choice more than ever before. Online sales still grow annually, as consumers gain more confidence with the ever-increasing range of products and services on offer online.

Partly in response to this e-commerce boom, the UK Government initially brought the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations into action in 2000. These Regulations, alongside other relevant and related Parliamentary Acts and regulations since, have sought to protect consumers that buy goods or services from sources where there is no face-to-face communication. This article explains some of the fundamental points that were covered in the Distance Selling Regulations and replaced by the Consumer Contracts Regulations in 2014 and which relate directly to safe online shopping and consumer rights.

Applying the Regulations

Firstly, it’s worth noting that the Regulations only apply to consumers that purchase goods or services from a business. The Regulations don’t apply to business-to-business purchases, land sales, vending machine purchases, and purchases made via auctions. However, a little confusingly, the Regulations are applicable to both land rentals and TV Internet shoppin channels.

The Fundamentals

The core part of the Regulations ensures that consumer rights are upheld when the consumer isn’t physically in attendance at the time of purchase. Therefore under the Regulations consumers have the right to clear access to what is known as ‘prior information’. This includes the provision by the supplier of their business name, geographical location if payment is received in advance (PO Box numbers are not acceptable), the price of the goods or services on offer including any hidden costs such as VAT or delivery costs, a satisfactory description of the goods or services on offer, the right to a 7 day “cooling off” period, cancellation and returns rights and policies, and the arrangements for purchases as well as any applicable deliveries that may be made. Unless another agreement is made, it is expected that deliveries will be made within 30 days.

In part, this ensures that the consumer is fully aware of the terms and conditions of the sale before their part of the contract (the purchase) is concluded. The Regulations also stipulate that the supplier must provide written confirmation of the order placed, as well detailing any after-sales guarantees or services. The complaints procedure should also be made clear and accessible.

7 Day Cooling Off Period & Cancellations

The DSR Regulations state that consumers have the right to what is commonly referred to as a 7 day cooling-off period. During this time the consumer is entitled to examine the goods as they might do in a shop. If they change their mind, the consumer is allowed to cancel the purchase and receive a full refund within 30 days, making the goods available to be ‘restored’ to the supplier. If agreed before the purchase, the consumer might be asked to foot the return postage charge. However if the goods were deemed faulty, having been kept in good condition by the consumer, then the supplier must offer a replacement, repair or even compensation.

It is worth noting that if no 7 day-cooling off period was stated in the original terms and conditions of the contract, then the consumer is automatically entitled to a three month period in which they can change their mind about the purchase. Also, the right to cancel or withdraw can be implemented by the consumer even once the goods or services have been provided. The supplier should offer a full refund for cancellations made by the consumer for up to 30 days after delivery or provision of services begins.

There are some exceptions to cancellation rights, most notably services such as catering or transportation that are provided for specific times and dates, personalised or customised goods, perishable goods such as flowers and food, unsealed software, audio or video CDs or DVDs, and auction sales.

Additional Protection

There is still the extra protection to those that make purchases at a distance with a debit card, storecard or credit card. Basically if a fraudulent payment is made via any of these payment methods, then the consumer retains the right to cancel the fraudulent purchase and recoup a full refund from the card issuer.

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[Add a Comment]
Minime - Your Question:
Hi, I was looking for a gift and have bought golden earrings from Pia jewellery website. I have paid £180. Upon delivery I have found that they are cheaply made and in a poor packaging. On their website it states that they won't refund pierced jewellery for hygiene reason. I still have posted them back the following day after I have got them. I am a bit worried they won't refund me though:(

Our Response:
They will only refund you if they are faulty,don't do what they're supposed to, or don't match the description given. If you can prove this they should give your money back. You should really have checked with the company first.
OnlineShoppingRights - 1-Dec-16 @ 12:29 PM
Hi, I was looking for a gift and have bought golden earrings from Pia jewellery website. I have paid £180. Upon delivery I have found that they are cheaply made and in a poor packaging. On their website it states that they won't refund pierced jewellery for hygiene reason. I still have posted them back the following day after I have got them. I am a bit worried they won't refund me though:(
Minime - 30-Nov-16 @ 2:16 PM
Hi, i live in Brazil and ordere some goods from UK and delivered in Brasil. Before ordering the goods, me and the seller agreed about VAT process and how the Refund would Be processed. Problem is that the ordering was made and now the seller do not answer my notification about the refund. I have all the History in email exchanged. Please let me know how bay i officially Claim my rights. Thanks
Ibsen - 30-Nov-16 @ 11:02 AM
Hi I agreed via messages to buy an item from a privateseller who also agreed my collection date. Suddenly a few days before my collection was due they said they had sold the item to a family member. They apologised. Although I do not wish to take legal action, I just wish to know if they are in breach of contract. The item would have been £100.
Missy - 27-Nov-16 @ 10:05 PM
Bud - Your Question:
I bought a dive computer from a website. I don't like it as it is uncomfortable to wear. I have looked at their returns policy and they state they charge a 30 percent restocking fee for non faulty items. Is this legal? I want a full refund.

Our Response:
No they should not charge for the return of items ordered online - you may have to pay postage however.
You can return it if you haven't used it (unless it's faulty in which case you can return it regardless). If it's not faulty and you cannot return it in its original state you may have to follow their terms and conditions. If it's a bespoke item you may not be able to return under the usual consumer rights.
OnlineShoppingRights - 24-Nov-16 @ 2:24 PM
I bought a dive computer from a website. I don't like it as it is uncomfortable to wear. I have looked at their returns policy and they state they charge a 30 percent restocking fee for non faulty items. Is this legal? I want a full refund.
Bud - 23-Nov-16 @ 9:13 PM
Denlev - Your Question:
I sold an electrical spare (armature for power tool) to a customer because his had burnt out. He fitted the spare which subsequently burnt out the replacement, obviously fault elsewhere. He demanded a full refund claiming faulty armature. These are tested items and in 20+ years have never had a faulty one. It was returned, at my expense, and had other damage on it as well which he claims it had when he received it, not true. How do I stand on that, I have refunded him in full but am now about £60.00 out pocket. The DSR's are an open license for fraud against honest sellers such as myself. I had a "faulty" £225.00 router returned with full refund including return postage and when I opened box it had two bricks and no router but because I had signed for it there was nothing I can do. How can we combat this type of fraud. Thank you.

Our Response:
You could consider taking a private legal action against people who have clearly been dishonest/fraudulent. In the case of the bricks in place of the router, it may be worth contacting the police to investigate this.
OnlineShoppingRights - 22-Nov-16 @ 10:40 AM
I sold an electrical spare (armature for power tool) to a customer because his had burnt out. He fitted the spare which subsequently burnt out the replacement, obviously fault elsewhere. He demanded a full refund claiming faulty armature. These are tested items and in 20+ years have never had a faulty one. It was returned, at my expense, and had other damage on it as well which he claims it had when he received it, not true. How do I stand on that, I have refunded him in full but am now about £60.00 out pocket. The DSR's are an open license for fraud againsthonest sellers such as myself. I had a "faulty" £225.00 router returned with full refund including return postage and when I opened box it had two bricks and no router but because I had signed for it there was nothing I can do. How can we combat this type of fraud. Thank you.
Denlev - 21-Nov-16 @ 12:13 PM
insurance mistake - Your Question:
I am wondering how distance selling applies to motor insurance? I recently took out a policy costing £350 but when I got the documents through I realized the cover wasn't suitable for my needs. I cancelled within a few days. The insurance company have now stated; "The return premium received from your Insurance Underwriter back to ourselves as a broker was £216.86; from this value we retain the insurer’s commission which leaves a balance of £195.17. From this figure we then retain our cancellation charge of £75.00, which leaves a balance of £120.17 to be refunded back to you"Can I expect more from them?

Our Response:
The insurers are allowed to take an administration fee etc if you cancel within the 14 day cooling off period but this should not be the same/as high as the standard cancellation charge. To deduct the amount your insurer/broker has seems very unreasonable. Complain firstly to the insurance company and then to the FinancialOmbudsman if you are not satisfied.
OnlineShoppingRights - 16-Nov-16 @ 12:12 PM
I am wondering how distance selling applies to motor insurance? I recently took out a policy costing £350 but when i got the documents through I realized the cover wasn't suitable for my needs. I cancelled within a few days. The insurance company have now stated; "The return premium received from your Insurance Underwriter back to ourselves as a broker was £216.86; from this value we retain the insurer’s commission which leaves a balance of £195.17. From this figure we then retain our cancellation charge of £75.00, which leaves a balance of £120.17 to be refunded back to you" Can I expect more from them?
insurance mistake - 15-Nov-16 @ 5:31 PM
Hi, I do a lot of my clothes shopping online. I recently returned some items to a well known designer brand and whilst they are refunding me no problems, they have deducted a restocking fee of £9. I understood that charging a restocking fee was not allowed under the DSR. Can you please confirm what the law states also what I need to do to get the money back? Many thanks.
Marky - 13-Nov-16 @ 9:12 AM
Peternb - Your Question:
Hi. I recently purchased a large item from a seller on eBay. This seller is based in Cardiff. Now the item came advertised as free UK P&P, with no small print that you get with other eBay sellers stating that if you live in the Scottish highlands, additional postage charges apply(as we are not part of the uk according to eBay sellers ) A couple of days after paying for the item, I received a message from the seller, stating that DHL were an additional £40.00 remote area charge to my parcel, as I have an IV postcode. I rang DHL who checked their system & told me that my postcode was not classed as a remote area, but the seller still asked me for the additional £40 or cancel my Order & get a full refund. If it states free P&P, does it mean as is stated?

Our Response:
Make a complaint to ebay about this. Cardiff is not a remote area and the small print did not give details about the additional cost.
OnlineShoppingRights - 1-Nov-16 @ 12:41 PM
Hi. I recently purchased a large item from a seller on eBay. This seller is based in Cardiff. Now the item came advertised as free UK P&P, with no small print that you get with other eBay sellers stating that if you live in the Scottish highlands, additional postage charges apply(as we are not part of the uk according to eBay sellers ) A couple of days after paying for the item, I received a message from the seller, stating that DHL were an additional £40.00 remote area charge to my parcel, as I have an IV postcode. I rang DHL who checked their system & told me that my postcode was not classed as a remote area, but the seller still asked me for the additional £40 or cancel my Order & get a full refund. If it states free P&P, does it mean as is stated?
Peternb - 1-Nov-16 @ 12:16 PM
so someone on here purchased a wet suit that doesn't fit. itcosts the retailer to have it picked from stock packed and delivered. this person then wants the retailer to absorb the delivery collection and restocking cost. why should the customer get away without paying for that service. it's a certain type of person who believes they should get somthing for nothing, I'm just glad most people are reasonable human beings
jb - 5-Oct-16 @ 9:42 PM
I have a furniture company and unscrupulous customers are using the distant selling act to have goods delivered, use them to see if they like them for sevral days ie mattresses and have it sent back saying it's faulty. we end up footing all the costs and a used mattress.
jb - 5-Oct-16 @ 9:33 PM
DaisyBella - Your Question:
I placed an order to process before end of the month as I am hoping to keep my loyalty scheme up (minimum spend each month). So ordered and paid over £200, only to find out today - paying is not confirmation of the order. Apparently after the payment there is an additional step confirming my order - even though I have already paid. My order is therefore just sitting in limbo and not being processed and as a result not included in my last months purchases. Really, really annoyed and frustrated as even after painstakingly selecting each item for order and paying the money - my order is not confirmed. This seems quite ridiculous to me and I have not come across this on any other website. Basically I have paid over the money but don't get anything for it? Surely 'confirming' the order comes before actually handing over the cash not after. Payment is usually the final step? Is there no obligation from the seller once the money has been paid?

Our Response:
Consumer Rights laws requires traders to acknowledge your order within a reasonable time, but do not say how long "reasonable" is. The contract should not really be formed until you've received your confirmation.
OnlineShoppingRights - 5-Oct-16 @ 1:04 PM
I placed an order to process before end of the month as I am hoping to keep my loyalty scheme up (minimum spend each month). So ordered and paid over £200, only to find out today - paying is not confirmation of the order. Apparently after the payment there is an additional step confirming my order - even though I have already paid. My order is therefore just sitting in limbo and not being processed and as a result not included in my last months purchases. Really, really annoyed and frustrated as even after painstakingly selecting each item for order and paying the money - my order is not confirmed. This seems quite ridiculous to me and I have not come across this on any other website. Basically I have paid over the money but don't get anything for it?Surely 'confirming' the order comes before actually handing over the cash not after. Payment is usually the final step?Is there no obligation from the seller once the money has been paid?
DaisyBella - 4-Oct-16 @ 9:52 AM
johnruggles - Your Question:
My wife purchased a workshop day online it was described as an intimate workshop, and when she attended, the class was 25 in number, given the workshop was only 2 hours long, it meant that the tutor didn't have very much time to spend with anyone, she feels she was missold this and the workshop wasn't as described, shes asked for a refund, but they are saying no, she paid with a credit card online, whats here options ?

Our Response:
We don't have the full details of the workshop. Whether you can claim anything back will depend on: What your wife learnt, any additional skills she acquired as a result of the course, whether she took anything tangible (such as products, books etc) away from the course and how much more she might have achieved if she'd been given more attention. This is all quite subjective so you might need to give the details to a legal professional to have a look at and tell you whether your consumer rights have been breached.
OnlineShoppingRights - 19-Aug-16 @ 12:11 PM
my wife purchased a workshop day online it was described as an intimate workshop, and when she attended, the class was 25 in number, given the workshop was only 2 hours long, it meant that the tutor didn't have very much time to spend with anyone, she feels she was missold this and the workshop wasn't as described, shes asked for a refund, but they are saying no, she paid with a credit card online, whats here options ?
johnruggles - 18-Aug-16 @ 8:01 AM
sparky - Your Question:
My partner has purchased a wetsuit from an online retailer. It doesn't fit and she wants to return it but apparently they charge a restocking fee which is in their terms and conditions. Does this still apply within the 7 day cooling off period?

Our Response:
Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations you have the right to return your order up to 14 days from the day you receive your goods. In general you shouldn't have to pay additional costs except the cost of returning the item.
OnlineShoppingRights - 11-Aug-16 @ 2:40 PM
My partner has purchased a wetsuit from an online retailer. It doesn't fit and she wants to return it but apparently they charge a restocking fee which is in their terms and conditions. Does this still apply within the 7 day cooling off period?
sparky - 10-Aug-16 @ 11:58 AM
Hi there, I have a question, maybe a problem. To cut a long story short: I own a Sky+HD box and 2 years ago I purchased a Sky Viewing Card (VC) at SKYEUROPE.TV for € 149,00 with a monthly subscription of € 28,00 and extra Sky VC Subscription Service of € 179,00 per annum. All the money was withdraw from my MasterCard, so no problem there. Now I've cancelled my subscription more than 3 months in advance (3 months is the minimum) per November 1st 2016. Skyeurope.tv tells me cancellation is no problem BUT I have to send back te Sky VC so the have it physically in their office. And here is my problem: I paid good money ( €149,00 ) for the VC and now they want it back?? I think: by right and EU-Law I am the owner of the VC because I bought it. The only thing Skyeurope.tv is to contact Sky (the official seller) and deactivate the VC per November 1st 2016. End of story.Or am i wrong. I live in The Netherlands by the way. I hope you can help me out here. Many thanks in advance.
Roger - 14-Jul-16 @ 2:22 PM
Hi, I have worn l'eau d'issey pour homme for many years and I recently bought a bottle 200ml from an online company I've found the fragrance doesn't last and wondered if even though I've opened and sprayed the bottle twice to test against my last bottle, can I tell the company I want to return as they've stated I can't. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Regards Richard.
Richard Moran - 14-Jun-16 @ 5:45 PM
A local organization has set up an on-line booking system for event tickets.The face price of the ticket is (say) £10.00 but the on-line booking system charges £10.50 - presumably to cover bank and credit card costs.The reason for the extra cost is not stated.Is this legal?
Flyfisher - 10-May-16 @ 4:13 PM
Hi it's my understanding the latest legislation regarding distant selling is a buyer can return an item purchased online should it become faulty within 30 days for a full refund including all shipping costs. What I want to know is there any change to the cooling off period where a buyer simply changes their mind or an item doesn't fit or is unsuitable for purpose. Is the cooling off period still 7 days and how long do they have to return the item after the cooling off period expires. thanks
Ray - 29-Apr-16 @ 2:22 PM
Lancs Lad - Your Question:
I ordered online 11 No. tickets for V Fest taking place in August for my son from Ticketmaster. He unfortunately at the same moment ordered the same number.I have requested Ticketmaster refund my (or my sons) purchase but they refuse stating that in their terms they do not give refunds unless the event is cancelled.Ticketmaster have not posted the tickets and cannot guarantee the tickets will be delivered any sooner than 5 days before the event. This therefore gives me no option of selling them as I do not have them in hand.My son also purchased these items (without my knowledge) aged 16. the T&C's of Ticketmaster state that the purchased must be over 18.Are there any avenues to use online purchase rights to help me recover the duplicated purchase.

Our Response:
The only thing you can do is to try and resale them on Ticketmaster's own resale page HERE - which asks you whether you have received your tickets yet.
OnlineShoppingRights - 26-Apr-16 @ 11:32 AM
I ordered online 11 No. tickets for V Fest taking place in August for my son from Ticketmaster.He unfortunately at the same moment ordered the same number. I have requested Ticketmaster refund my (or my sons) purchase but they refuse stating that in their terms they do not give refunds unless the event is cancelled. Ticketmaster have not posted the tickets and cannot guarantee the tickets will be delivered any sooner than 5 days before the event.This therefore gives me no option of selling them as I do not have them in hand. My son also purchased these items (without my knowledge) aged 16. the T&C's of Ticketmaster state that the purchased must be over 18. Are there any avenues to use online purchase rights to help me recover the duplicatedpurchase.
Lancs Lad - 25-Apr-16 @ 12:08 PM
The Consumer Contracts Regulations and distance selling regulations are a joke to sellers and totally unfair. Time after time I get people who order stuff without checking the specifications properly knowing that they can open a laptop or computer and then simply send it back if they change their mind for a full refund including the shipping costs. Then I am left with an opened product that I can no longer sell as new and I can't send it back to my supplier as that is a corporate contract and totally different. All this does is encourage people to order stuff without bothering to check it is exactly what they want. If it's unopened or wrong due to a wrong description then fine but it just goes to far and is unfair to the seller.
gus - 15-Apr-16 @ 9:27 AM
Hi I ordered a piece of furniture that is made to order. Per the company's terms and conditions, this is 'bespoke' and they say that bespoke items cannot be cancelled. However, it is a standard item and it is not our fault that they don't stock it. It has not yet been delivered. Am I able to cancel and get a full refund under the new Consumer Rights Directive? Thanks for your help.
Twiggy - 14-Apr-16 @ 5:31 PM
Hi i ordered a wedding dress from china and they sent it all was fine untill DPD couriers got hold of it they have now lost it and say i have to go back to my sender which is no good another wedding dress wouldnt not arrive in time DPD wont give me the money back they have to send it to china as they have the account and i cant afford one from the uk they have ruened my wedding what can i do about this iv been in contact woth them but all they say is go back to sender.
fran - 12-Apr-16 @ 4:04 PM
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