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Understanding UK Distance Selling Rules

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 18 May 2018 | 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]
Blofield - Your Question:
I recently sold a collection of Antiquarian books to a chap in India. They were covered for £250 against loss or damage, but now they have arrived in India the chap is saying Indian customs service are demanding around £149 import duty. Firstly, I thought books were exempt from import duties (he has said he had never paid import duties previously for importing books). Secondly, he has said that he will refuse to pay the customs fee, which will mean either - a, they are disposed of by Indian Customs, or b, they are returned, with a bill for me to cover for their return. A couple of gripes; firstly I feel that I shouldn't have to refund his postage (he had an obligation to pay import duties, but is refusing to do so). He had asked (after they had already been sent) that I would put a lower price on the consignment to avoid his paying higher fees, should it have been necessary (clearly making a false statement on a legal document would have been against the law). Where do I stand legally on this? Thanks

Our Response:
We can't really say as it's not a UK based issue. Try our guide on Overseas Buying/Selling for more information.
OnlineShoppingRights - 22-May-18 @ 3:07 PM
sam - Your Question:
Both clothes from website, but have then returned them within 14 days, completely unworn or used at all with all tags attached in perfect condition, because I didn't like the colour, however they charge me with a '10% restocking fee' so I don't get the full refund. Is this allowed from an online store?Thanks in advance

Our Response:
No assuming this was a consumer purchase and not a business to business purchase, the retailer cannot charge a restocking fee.
OnlineShoppingRights - 21-May-18 @ 10:20 AM
Both clothes from website, but have then returned them within 14 days, completely unworn or used at all with all tags attached in perfect condition, because I didn't like the colour, however they charge me with a '10% restocking fee' so I don't get the full refund. Is this allowed from an online store? Thanks in advance
sam - 18-May-18 @ 2:03 PM
I recently sold a collection of Antiquarian books to a chap in India. They were covered for £250 against loss or damage, but now they have arrived in India the chap is saying Indian customs service are demanding around £149 import duty. Firstly, I thought books were exempt from import duties (he has said he had never paid import duties previously for importing books). Secondly, he has said that he will refuse to pay the customs fee, which will mean either - a, they are disposed of by Indian Customs, or b, they are returned, with a bill for me to cover for their return. A couple of gripes; firstly I feel that I shouldn't have to refund his postage (he had an obligation to pay import duties, but is refusing to do so). He had asked (after they had already been sent) that I would put a lower price on the consignment to avoid his paying higher fees, should it have been necessary (clearly making a false statement on a legal document would have been against the law). Where do I stand legally on this?. Thanks
Blofield - 16-May-18 @ 3:12 PM
Neil - Your Question:
Hi there do Long Distance selling laws apply when buying a cherished number plate from DVLA because they say they are exempt from this and give 10 days only cooling off from date of purchase and not from when the registration document arrives on your door step. Is this true as I received a number plate from my son as a present that I don’t like within the 10 days from receiving the doc and want to change. Do I have the law on my side thank you

Our Response:
We can't comment on specific sales as we don't know the detail but generally "bespoke" items are not covered in the same why as other online purchases unless they are actually faulty.
OnlineShoppingRights - 16-May-18 @ 2:47 PM
Hi there do Long Distance selling laws apply when buying a cherished number plate from DVLA because they say they are exempt from this and give 10 days only cooling off from date of purchase and not from when the registration document arrives on your door step. Is this true as I received a number plate from my son as a present that I don’t like within the 10 days from receiving the doc and want to change. Do I have the law on my side thank you
Neil - 15-May-18 @ 9:42 AM
Hi, I recently purchased down mattress toppers online. When I received them they fell short of the description given when purchased and certainly don't match the photo. Extra thick and luxurious, they are poorly filled and certainly not extra thick or luxurious as the photo. The retailer is prepared to refund but will not cover the return shipping cost, even though the goods are not as described. Please can you advise what my rights are regarding the shipping as they are large items to ship back. Thanks
BBhill - 15-Mar-18 @ 3:57 PM
Tim - Your Question:
Hello, how does distant selling apply to auto-renewal contracts? I have a LinkedIn Sales Navigator account that was set to auto-renew today. I cancelled the account but it turns out you have to cancel one day before the renewal and now thay have taken the cash from my Paypal account. Is auto-renewal covered under distant selling regs and is a cooling off period available?

Our Response:
Auto-renewal is legal but only if the provider communicated this very clearly when you first entered into the contract. If it's not clear, report it to the Advertising Standards Authority and Trading Standards.
OnlineShoppingRights - 20-Feb-18 @ 1:01 PM
Hello, how does distant selling apply to auto-renewal contracts? I have a LinkedIn Sales Navigator account that was set to auto-renew today. I cancelled the account but it turns out you have to cancel one day before the renewal and now thay have taken the cash from my Paypal account. Is auto-renewal covered under distant selling regs and is a cooling off period available?
Tim - 16-Feb-18 @ 9:03 AM
Christa - Your Question:
I chose various items of bathroom sanitary ware at a showroom and got the quotes printed off so I could check measurements with my plumber. After checking, I phoned and placed the order and paid by phone. Once the work started and the items had been delivered, the plumber realized one item was too large and we needed the smaller version. The item had not been unpacked at all and the showroom will accept the return but is charging 20% restocking fee plus VAT. Are they allowed to do this?

Our Response:
Yes they can do this if you purchased from a show room and the item is not faulty.
OnlineShoppingRights - 13-Feb-18 @ 3:18 PM
I chose various items of bathroom sanitary ware at a showroom and got the quotes printed off so I could check measurements with my plumber. After checking, I phoned and placed the order and paid by phone. Once the work started and the items had been delivered, the plumber realized one item was too large and we needed the smaller version. The item had not been unpacked at all and the showroom will accept the return but is charging 20% restocking fee plus VAT.Are they allowed to do this?
Christa - 12-Feb-18 @ 2:39 PM
Art - Your Question:
Hi,I ordered a flower arrangement from an online florist having paid I changed my mind and asked that it be cancelled. But was told that the item was arranged and passed for delivery next day and once an item was arranged and passed to courier it was not possible to cancel. They said they would to get it back but then later said they were unable and therefore could not be cancelled. Next day it was delivered and I refused it because I had cancelled it subsequently received e mail to say that they would resend it for a further 50% of original cost. Which I had not intention of doing. They are adamant that this is their policy and case closed. So I am £24.99 out of pocket. Are they right and not obliged to refund me?ART.

Our Response:
The consumer conract regulations (formerly distance selling regulations) do not apply to supply of goods that would deteriorate rapidly, such as fresh flowers.
OnlineShoppingRights - 2-Jan-18 @ 3:28 PM
Hi, I ordered a flower arrangement from an online florist having paid I changed my mind and asked that it be cancelled. But was told that the item was arranged and passed for delivery next day and once an item was arranged and passed to courier it was not possible to cancel. They said they would to get it back but then later said they were unable and therefore could not be cancelled. Next day it was delivered and I refused it because I had cancelled it subsequently received e mail to say that they would resend it for a further 50% of original cost. Which I had not intention of doing. They are adamant that this is their policy and case closed. So I am £24.99 out of pocket. Are they right and not obliged to refund me? ART.
Art - 26-Dec-17 @ 12:19 PM
NorfolkBoy - Your Question:
I bought a second hand car online from a trader. Viewed images of car on main car buying site (yes that one), and spoke to dealer over the phone and agreed a price. Transferred all funds a couple of days before collection. Before sending money, I was sent a sale agreement. It was a face 2 face one. I changed it to read that funds would be with seller prior to collection, that vehicle had not been seen by the buyer, and that the buyer (me) would arrange to collect after funds were received. I signed it and marked 'as amended' next to my signature. I was not given any distance selling disclosure at the time or since. I believe this allows me 1 year and 14 days to return the car. the dealer does not think it is a distance sale. Do I need to go County Court for the return of the car and recovery of purchase price, or would County Court let me seek a declaration that the sale was a distance sale.which should be a lower court fee than going after 10k+ of car value?

Our Response:
We can't really give specific legal information as we're not fully furnished with all the information. Firstly however, if this were to be considered an online/distance sale, consumer rights do not give you 1 year and 14 days in which to return the item. You have 14 days from the day on which you receive the item in which to inform the retailer you want to return it, and a further 14 days in which to get the item back to the retailer. If the item is faulty, you can reject in the first 30 days from the day your receive it. If it's 30 days to 6 months since purchase, the retailer must repair or replace a faulty item. If it's more than 6 months then it's up to the buyer to prove a fault was there at the time of purchase. However we're assuming you collected this car in person having reserved it online. The usual procedure in a case like this is that you pay a deposit in advance and then the balance on collection (usually by bank transfer or banker's draft). This gives you the chance to inspect the vehicle and address any issues before paying thebalance and taking the vehicle away. In this instance, the sale would not be considered a distance sale anyway.
OnlineShoppingRights - 21-Nov-17 @ 11:36 AM
I bought a second hand car online from a trader. Viewed images of car on main car buying site (yes that one), and spoke to dealer over the phone and agreed a price. Transferred all funds a couple of days before collection. Before sending money, I was sent a sale agreement. It was a face 2 face one. i changed it to read that funds would be with seller prior to collection, that vehicle had not been seen by the buyer, and that the buyer (me) would arrange to collect after funds were received. I signed it and marked 'as amended' next to my signature. I was not given any distance selling disclosure at the time or since. I believe this allows me 1 year and 14 days to return the car. the dealer does not think it is a distance sale. Do i need to go County Court for the return of the car and recovery of purchase price, or would County Court let me seek a declaration that the sale was a distance sale...which should be a lower court fee than going after 10k+ of car value?
NorfolkBoy - 20-Nov-17 @ 1:06 PM
I recently purchased an iwatch from Littlewoods an error on there site said white watch when I ordered black so I cancelled it and ordered it again and that said white watch so I contacted them and they said it is black it just says white so they sent 2 off them and they was delivered by Royal Mail but as I work 6 days a week during the pick up office opening times I contacted them immediately when I got a notification saying Royal Mail was delivering explaining the situation that I wouldn’t be able to get the items which meant returning them was impossible as it was a gift for weekend I asked for them to be recalled I was told they had been and I would get my refund within 2 hours on my account so I waited until the next day there was no refund so I contacted them again to be then told a temporary credit of 299,99 would be added to my account within 24 hours even tho the total of the watches was over £900 I explained it was a gift for weekend I was told there was nothing they could do. So I waited 24 hours still no refund so I contacted them again and was told no refund had to wait so I contacted them again for a forth time to be told they had been cancelled and my account would be credited soon so I contacted them again cancelled the watches again I repeated this process for 8 days to then be told within 3 days my account would be refunded to get home the next day to find out they had arranged redelivery I’ve tried to make 5 complaints to be told I have no basis for a complaint because I can’t pick them up from the collect centre even after I’ve explained prior to alll these problems that could of been rectified with one phone call is there anything I can do because I feel like there just doing what they want and trying to force me to take both of the watches
Michaeledwards - 16-Nov-17 @ 5:45 PM
Pip - Your Question:
I placed an order with Boots yesterday and as soon as I had done it I realised I had asked for it to be delivered to Manchester Airport airside (the last place I had used) rather than my local store) I rang immediately to ask if I can change place of delivery or cancel the order allowing me to replace it correctly. I was told once you’ve placed an order it cannot be cancelled, I would have to wait for the store to return the items and only then would I have my refund. Is this allowed?

Our Response:
Yes your standard online rights apply, in that you can cancel the order within 14 days of "receiving" the goods. The retailer's systems probably make it difficult to stop an order that has already gone through. If you email the store it's to be sent to, they may be willing to return it sooner than the usual holding period.
OnlineShoppingRights - 15-Nov-17 @ 10:07 AM
I placed an order with Boots yesterday and as soon as I had done it I realised I had asked for it to be delivered to Manchester Airport airside (the last place I had used) rather than my local store) I rang immediately to ask if I can change place of delivery or cancel the order allowing me to replace it correctly. I was told once you’ve placed an order it cannot be cancelled, I would have to wait for the store to return the items and only then would I have my refund. Is this allowed?
Pip - 14-Nov-17 @ 7:07 AM
DB - Your Question:
Can I request a refund within 14 days of buying concert tickets under the distant selling regs ?

Our Response:
No, unfortunately for you, event tickets are exempt from the 14 day rule.
OnlineShoppingRights - 10-Nov-17 @ 12:29 PM
Can I request a refund within 14 days of buying concert tickets under the distant selling regs ?
DB - 8-Nov-17 @ 10:55 AM
I ordered a leather armchair on line from John Lewis . I telephoned first to see if it was available anywhere locally to try first to be told no but not to worry as I had 35 days to change my mind . Chair arrived after 8 weeks and unfortunately from first sitting I realised it’s not suitable for me . My feet a foot off the ground and the back cushion pushes into my shoulders resulting in me sliding out of the chair . I’ve had serious back surgery hence totally unsuitable and unsafe . Phoned customer services to ask to return the armchair only to be told it was a soecial order and hence non returnable ! What can I do now I’m 1,2900 poorer
Tish - 26-Oct-17 @ 4:06 PM
I bought a set of dinning room furniture which proved to be to big for the room. I have tried to return it to the retailer but they have told me that because I have assembled the furniture ( fixed the legs to the table and chairs) that they wont accept it being returned. Are the in their rights or just trying it on
Hez - 25-Oct-17 @ 8:02 PM
I bought 3 rolls of wallpaper, 7 days ago (online). As I have ended up a roll left, unopened,I have tried to return it and the company has refused as it is a part order.The forwarded a link to their returns page and if states they do not take returns on part orders of wallpaper. Do you think this is right?
Kei200 - 23-Oct-17 @ 7:07 PM
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
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