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Understanding UK Distance Selling Rules

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 5 Oct 2017 | 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 shopping 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 and geographical location
  • 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
  • Details of any cancellation,returns rights and policies - bearing in mind that all online retailers MUST accept returns within 14 days of the goods being received by the purchaser (whether faulty or not)
  • Details about arrangements for purchases and how /when deliveries will 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.

Cooling Off Period & Cancellations

You have an automatic cooling off period in which you can cancel an order. This starts as soon as you place the order and ends 14 days from the day you receive the items. You must inform the retailer if you wish to return any items during this 14 day period, then you have a further 14 days to send the goods back.

Who pays the delivery and return costs

If you return items, the retailer must refund the cost of the items plus any basic delivery charges that were made at the time of purchase. If you paid extra for express delivery, you will only be refunded the basic delivery charge. Some online retailers will refund the whole amount, check their terms and conditions. The retailer does not have to cover the costs you incur in returning the items. Again, some retailers do include this, check the Ts & Cs.

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]
Hi, I bought over the phone some bathroom accessories from a well known store. They send the items which arrived damaged (broken glass). Contacted for a replacement. Some weeks later they just processed a replacement without any contact with me just an automated email that items are in process. Items arrived at the time when I was on holiday away. Checked upon my return and glass shattered again. Contacted the retailer and they just replied two weeks later that I missed 7 days deadline to check the items and there is nothing they can do. Completely ignoring the lack of communication from their side and the fact that I was away.How should I proceed?
Dove - 5-Oct-17 @ 4:32 PM
CherieLeee - Your Question:
Hi, I ordered a dress online but returned it within the specified time as the quality was poor. The seller provided free delivery and I paid for the cost of returning the item. I noticed when I received the refund that it was minus £6:00. When I queried this I was informed they collect the cost of delivery on all returns, which meant I paid for delivery and return. Is this correct as I thought the customer didn’t pay for both. Thank you in anticipation.clh

Our Response:
No it's not correct. The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2014 state that if you return items (bought online) within 14 days of receiving them, you should receive a full refund for the item and the delivery costs if you paid them when you ordered. If the retailer will not refund you, you can claim a breach of the contract, and trading standards can apply for a court order requiring compliance.
OnlineShoppingRights - 4-Oct-17 @ 9:21 AM
Hi, I ordered a dress online but returned it within the specified time as the quality was poor. The seller provided free delivery and I paid for the cost of returning the item. I noticed when I received the refund that it was minus £6:00. When I queried this I was informed they collect the cost of delivery on all returns, which meant I paid for delivery and return. Is this correct as I thought the customer didn’t pay for both. Thank you in anticipation....clh
CherieLeee - 2-Oct-17 @ 5:32 PM
2 Sunny - Your Question:
Ordered a side table from an online company. Colour was not as I expected. I have asked to cancel (within 14 days of receipt) which they have acknowledged. However in their T&Cs it states they reserve the right to deduct a maximum of 5% of the total cost to cover admin charges. Can they do this?

Our Response:
No, you must receive a full refund, plus any delivery costs you paid when ordering. You may have to pay for return delivery costs depending on the retailer's policy.
OnlineShoppingRights - 18-Sep-17 @ 1:58 PM
Ordered a side table from an online company.Colour was not as I expected.I have asked to cancel (within 14 days of receipt) which they have acknowledged. However in their T&Cs it states they reserve the right to deduct a maximum of 5% of the total cost to cover admin charges.Can they do this?
2 Sunny - 16-Sep-17 @ 3:07 PM
CJM - Your Question:
Bought my daughter some shoes online. Paid 3.95 standard delivery. They don't fit. Paid to return them. They've refunded cost of shoes minus original postage charge. Surely this is incorrect? How do I challenge this?

Our Response:
The Consumer Contract Regulations state thatyou can return unwanted goods within 14 days of receiving them (actually you cancel within 14 days then have a further 14 days to return them) for a full refund and the retailer must refund any delivery charges paid by you. Write to the retailer quoting the above legislation and say that you are requesting an immediate refund of the original delivery charge (£3.95). Keep records of all correspondence, report to the Ombudsman and Trading Standards if the retailer refuses.
OnlineShoppingRights - 14-Sep-17 @ 12:44 PM
Bought my daughter some shoes online.Paid 3.95 standard delivery. They don't fit.Paid to return them.They've refunded cost of shoes minus original postage charge. Surely this is incorrect? How do I challenge this?
CJM - 13-Sep-17 @ 12:24 AM
Saz - Your Question:
I ordered items off asos and noticed the wrong delivery address on email tried cancelling it but missed the 1hr they give to cancel it. But tried to cancel a full day before dispatch advising I'm not in country at address to receive delivery and and old business address. They advised they can't cancel it and to get the business to reject or return it, I don't know anyone at the address and tried cancelling before they dispatched. Am I able to get this order refunded

Our Response:
Not at this stage, if the product has to be signed for it may be returned directly to the retailer. It may be easier to do some research and speak to someone at address it's been sent to.
OnlineShoppingRights - 15-Aug-17 @ 1:00 PM
Sgt Bash - Your Question:
I bought a airport transfer for £24 from ryan air and wanting to cancel the transaction the same day but they are trying to fob me off with a third company in hungary with a credit note that I wont use. I paid through paypal using a creditcard

Our Response:
This is detailed in the terms and conditions of the company see here for more information. Note that while consumer rights generally give you a cooling off period, contracts for accommodation, transport of goods, vehicle rental services, catering or services related to leisure activities where such services are bought for a specific date are exempt.
OnlineShoppingRights - 14-Aug-17 @ 10:54 AM
I ordered items off asos and noticed the wrong delivery address on email tried cancelling it but missed the 1hr they give to cancel it. But tried to cancel a full day before dispatch advising I'm not in country at address to receive delivery and and old business address. They advised they can't cancel it and to get the business to reject or return it, I don't know anyone at the address and tried cancelling before they dispatched. Am I able to get this order refunded
Saz - 13-Aug-17 @ 2:51 PM
I bought a airport transfer for £24 from ryan air and wanting to cancel the transaction the same day but they are trying to fob me off with a third company in hungary with a credit note that I wont use. I paid through paypal using a creditcard
Sgt Bash - 11-Aug-17 @ 11:40 AM
Amy000 - Your Question:
Hi, I bought a bag over the phone from a retailer as I have none of the shops nearby. It cost me £7.95 to have the bag posted to me. (This was the only delivery option they told me)When I received the bag it was faulty. I have sent the bag back after going through repairs and warranties, they had pre-paid the return postage; today they have refunded me but said they can't refund the postage charge for the bag been sent. Is this correct?

Our Response:
No if goods are faulty and have been ordered by phone, mail or online, the retailer has to pay the cost of return postage and also refund any original delivery charge.
OnlineShoppingRights - 7-Aug-17 @ 11:47 AM
SamW - Your Question:
Hi, a colleague took a phone call from a company who sell franking machine ink, the sales advisor was advised that the person responsible for purchasing such items was not available and asked if he could call back, however he continued with his sales speech and emphasized that the offer should be taken up otherwise the discount would not be available after, and he insisted that the person he normally deals with normally does this (which is untrue) therefore my colleague was pressured into agreeing to place the order. When the ink arrived, as it wasn't an authorised order and not required we have contacted the company to return, stating the distance selling cooling off period, but we are being told the goods are non returnable. We have not paid, an invoice has been received, I have sent an e-mail letter advising we do not want the goods and will not pay, but they are insisting because over the initial telephone conversation he told my colleague the goods were non refundable we must pay, what are our rights here?

Our Response:
Unfortunately the Consumer Rights legislation is not really aimed at protection business to business transactions, except that goods must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. If you feel your employee was pressurized into accepting this sale in an unorthodox manner, then you should seek legal advice.
OnlineShoppingRights - 4-Aug-17 @ 11:36 AM
Hi, I bought a bag over the phone from a retailer as I have none of the shops nearby. It cost me £7.95 to have the bag posted to me. (This was the only delivery option they told me) When I received the bag it was faulty. I have sent the bag back after going through repairs and warranties, they had pre-paid the return postage; today they have refunded me but said they can't refund the postage charge for the bag been sent. Is this correct?
Amy000 - 3-Aug-17 @ 1:45 PM
Annie - Your Question:
I had a bed that was delivered with a box missing. They then delivered the wrong missing box 3 days later so still could not put it up. I emailed them as I couldn't get through on the phone for a full refund as I had to go out and buy another bed as couldn't wait for a 3rd attemPT (called Friday 5:40 I got thru but was told they were closed, call Sat! Called Sat and message said closed until Monday!) The response was effectively we delivered the right box if it was wrong why didn't you tell us and we'll charge you £45 to return!!! Absolutely disgusted.

Our Response:
If they delivered the wrong item it was not your fault and you should not have to pay the return costs. If you called you should have a log of this on your phone statement and a copy of the emails you sent as evidence if you need it. Send an email saying your are exercising your rights to return the faulty item under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and that the retailer is responsible for payment of the return costs.
OnlineShoppingRights - 3-Aug-17 @ 12:54 PM
shona - Your Question:
HiI bought a product online and paid £8.99 for express delivery. I returned the item within 14 days and received only the standard £3.99 postage backIs that right?

Our Response:
Yes. You are entitled to refund of the standard delivery costs, but not of any express delivery fee you may have paid. Some retailers will refund it, but not all do...nor are they obliged to do so.
OnlineShoppingRights - 3-Aug-17 @ 9:58 AM
Hi, a colleague took a phone call from a company who sell franking machine ink, the sales advisor was advised that the person responsible for purchasing such items was not available and asked if he could call back, however he continued with his sales speech and emphasized that the offer should be taken up otherwise the discount would not be available after, and he insisted that the person he normally deals with normally does this (which is untrue) therefore my colleague was pressured into agreeing to place the order.When the ink arrived, as it wasn't an authorised order and not required we have contacted the company to return, stating the distance selling cooling off period, but we are being told the goods are non returnable. We have not paid, an invoice has been received, I have sent an e-mail letter advising we do not want the goods and will not pay, but they are insisting because over the initial telephone conversation he told my colleague the goods were non refundable we must pay, what are our rights here?
SamW - 1-Aug-17 @ 9:51 PM
I had a bed that was delivered with a box missing. They then delivered the wrong missing box 3 days later so still could not put it up. I emailed them as I couldn't get through on the phone for a full refund as I had to go out and buy another bed as couldn't wait for a 3rd attemPT (called Friday 5:40 I got thru but was told they were closed, call Sat! Called Sat and message said closed until Monday!) The response was effectively we delivered the right box if it was wrong why didn't you tell us and we'll charge you £45 to return!!! Absolutely disgusted.
Annie - 31-Jul-17 @ 10:42 PM
Hi I bought a product online and paid £8.99 for express delivery.I returned the item within 14 days and received only the standard £3.99 postage back Is that right?
shona - 31-Jul-17 @ 4:29 PM
Ypups - Your Question:
I found a car on Gumtree. The owner suggested bringing it to me. When she arrived there was a massive dent in the rear bumper. She said it happened on the way here and would understand if I changed my mind. I test drove it, liked it, paid a deposit of £200. While the insurance company was doing the repair I thought a lot about how flimsy it must be to do that much damage and her not know who did it. Decided I would've feel protected in a car that flimsy, so 6 days after I emailed to explain that I had changed my mind and why. The next day I found out my current car was a cat D write off before I bought it, though nothing on the paperwork to indicate this, so only worth a fraction of what I calculated I could sell it for. So I emailed again saying that I couldn't raise the purchase price anyway for this reason. No response. Weeks later I found her address on white pages and wrote asking for my deposit back. She says I will have to take her to court because the repair cost her more than £200 and the deposit was non-refundable. Is this legal? Do I have a case under any kind of consumer protection law?

Our Response:
Consumer laws do not really protect you in a private sale unfortunately. It's unlikely you will get your £200 even if you take it to court, as she can claim she held the car for you, thus incurring extra costs (e.g Insurance, storage etc).
OnlineShoppingRights - 27-Jul-17 @ 11:53 AM
I found a car on Gumtree. The owner suggested bringing it to me. When she arrived there was a massive dent in the rear bumper. She said it happened on the way here and would understand if I changed my mind. I test drove it, liked it, paid a deposit of£200. While the insurance company was doing the repair I thought a lot about how flimsy it must be to do that much damage and her not know who did it.Decided I would've feel protected in a car that flimsy, so 6 days after I emailed to explain that I had changed my mind and why. The next day I found out my current car was a cat D write off before I bought it, though nothing on the paperwork to indicate this, so only worth a fraction of what I calculated I could sell it for. So I emailed again saying that I couldn't raise the purchase price anyway for this reason. No response. Weeks later I found her address on white pages and wrote asking for my deposit back. She says I will have to take her to court because the repair cost her more than £200 and the deposit was non-refundable. Is this legal? Do I have a case under any kind of consumer protection law?
Ypups - 23-Jul-17 @ 12:50 PM
we bought a table on-line from Italy.Chips have now appeared on the interlocking leaves.We were requested to send pictures and we did.They have responded saying the chips won't show and the hair-line cracks are settlement cracks!Do we have any rights and, if so, how should we proceed please?
suzi - 13-Jul-17 @ 2:55 PM
I bought a set of coins from a Facebook selling page from a private seller. Not a business. Item didn't arrive. I paid using PayPal g&s. Can I claim my money back?
Vaf58 - 27-Jun-17 @ 6:41 AM
Cp - Your Question:
I purchased a jumpsuit and trousers from Arialondon. They don't state anywhere on their website their clothes are shipped from China. It took 10 days to receive the trousers and the jumpsuit has not arrived. They said they can only send me a refund for the jumpsuit if I don't receive in 60 days from the dispatch date which was 01 June. Can I do anything? I was never told an estimated delivery date.

Our Response:
If there was no delivery time specified at the time of order, a default delivery period of 30 days applies.If your delivery is later than this and you needed it delivered within the assumed period, then you have the right to terminate the purchase and get a full refund.
OnlineShoppingRights - 16-Jun-17 @ 12:47 PM
I purchased a jumpsuit and trousers from Arialondon. They don't state anywhere on their website their clothes are shipped from China. It took 10 days to receive the trousers and the jumpsuit has not arrived. They said they can only send me a refund for the jumpsuit if I don't receive in 60 days from the dispatch date which was 01 June. Can I do anything? I was never told an estimated delivery date.
Cp - 13-Jun-17 @ 10:21 PM
Degs - Your Question:
Do these rules apply to an item which is ordered in a shop but has to be made and delivered 6 weeks later. The item is poor quality and has a hole in it.

Our Response:
You can return faulty goods to a shop under the consumer rights act. All goods must be of satisfactory quality (not faulty or damaged), fit for the purpose they are intended for and as described (matching any description given to you, or any models or samples shown to you at the time of purchase). You have 30 days (from when you receive the item) in which to reject any item that is faulty/doesn't meet the above criteria, for a full refund. So take it back immediately and ask for a refund.
OnlineShoppingRights - 6-Jun-17 @ 10:36 AM
Do these rules apply to an item which is ordered in a shop but has to be made and delivered 6 weeks later. The item is poor quality and has a hole in it.
Degs - 3-Jun-17 @ 9:21 AM
FAY970L - Your Question:
I bought a competition race clutch from Demon Tweeks based on the part number for the car model on their website. I now find that it was incorrectly listed on their website with the wrong part number which they fully accept. They are refusing to offer a refund. The problem on our side is that I bought the item 12 months ago & have only just been able to fit the part for a variety of reasons. There is no way of knowing that it is incorrect until you try to fit it. The clutch cost £482. Do we have any legal rights regarding this?

Our Response:
Because it's so long ago and their website has probably been changed since then, this could be quite difficult to achieve. Will they offer a replacement? Can they help you arrange to sell it to another customer? That way you may get something back for it.
OnlineShoppingRights - 16-May-17 @ 12:18 PM
I bought a competition race clutch from Demon Tweeks based on the part number for the car model on their website. I now find that it was incorrectly listed on their website with the wrong part number which they fully accept. They are refusing to offer a refund. The problem on our side is that I bought the item 12 months ago & have only just been able to fit the part for a variety of reasons. There is no way of knowing that it is incorrect until you try to fit it. The clutch cost £482. Do we have any legal rights regarding this?
FAY970L - 15-May-17 @ 11:31 AM
Rob - Your Question:
This info is out of date. As far as I am aware, the consumer or buyer (not trade) must notify the seller of his/her intent to return goods. Goods must be returned within a further 14 days after notifying the seller. This effectively gives upto 28 days to view and return unwanted goods. Original outgoing delivery charges to the buyer must also be refunded with the cost of the goods. The cost of the return delivery does not have to be refunded, but this should be made clear in the T&C's

Our Response:
You are correct, we have now updated this article
OnlineShoppingRights - 5-May-17 @ 11:04 AM
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