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Understanding UK Distance Selling Rules

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 10 May 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]
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
Amy - Your Question:
I wonder if someone could help.I ordered a upgrade phone with EE via a 3rd party supplier. I cancelled this order within 2hours of placing the order. The 3rd party still sent the item, and have opened a contract in my name. According to them, they cant cancel until they receive the item back. I have never had the item. It has been sitting in the post office, of which they are aware. They are now saying that I have to wait until the phone is received back to themselves and it will be another 3-5 days after that fact before they can process cancellation? Is this legal? Shouldn't the contract have been cancelled the moment I asked it to be?

Our Response:
If the phone had already been sentout to you before you phoned to cancel it, then yes you will have to return it - this is probably just how the retailers systems work. The process is probably such that you need to go through the stages of receiving and returning the item. Pick it up from the Post Office and send it back as soon as you can.
OnlineShoppingRights - 7-Mar-16 @ 11:49 AM
I tried to pay for a holiday online with a company called On the beach. Upon trying to confirm payment a message came up on screen 'an error occurred.' I automatically thought my payment had failed and chose to try another online company. I successfully booked my trip but to my horror, OTB had already £440.90. I therefore paid twice for the same holiday. No offer of a refund was forthcoming. They deny there was any problem. I have been trying to resolve this ever since to no avail. They also charged me over £12 for using a debit card.
Juanita - 5-Mar-16 @ 1:39 PM
I wonder if someone could help....I ordered a upgrade phone with EE via a 3rd party supplier. I cancelled this order within 2hours of placing the order. The 3rd party still sent the item, and have opened a contract in my name. According to them, they cant cancel until they receive the item back. I have never had the item. It has been sitting in the post office, of which they are aware. They are now saying that I have to wait until the phone is received back to themselves and it will be another 3-5 days after that fact before they can process cancellation? Is this legal? Shouldn't the contract have been cancelled the moment I asked it to be?
Amy - 4-Mar-16 @ 8:52 AM
Goodenough - Your Question:
Hi, I've just received two pillows ordered online but don't like them. Retailers website shows that pillows can't be returned for hygiene reasons if "the sealed packaging has been opened". These pillows came in zipped carry case type packaging with plastic loops on the zips to seal them. Obviously I have had to cut these 'sealing' loops to examine the goods but the pillows themselves are unused and I still have all the original packaging. How do I stand as far as return goods within seven days?Thank you.

Our Response:
It depends how easy it is to examine the pillows without undoing the packaging. In general consumers lose their right to return/refund if they are unseal goods that are not suitable for return if they are unsealed, due to health protection or hygiene reasons.
OnlineShoppingRights - 16-Feb-16 @ 2:06 PM
Hi, I've just received two pillows ordered online but don't like them. Retailers website shows that pillows can't be returned for hygiene reasons if "the sealed packaging has been opened". These pillows came in zipped carry case type packaging with plastic loops on the zips to seal them. Obviously I have had to cut these 'sealing' loops to examine the goods but the pillows themselves are unused and I still have all the original packaging. How do I stand as far as return goods within seven days? Thank you.
Goodenough - 14-Feb-16 @ 12:28 PM
Mike mentioned last June that the cooling off period is no longer 7 days but 14 by virtue of the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013. And you responded on the 23rd June about up dating articles.Perhaps this significant extensionto consumer rights should be within your body copy by now!!
tudorman - 13-Jan-16 @ 4:44 PM
Hi bought a dress online, it's not suitable (can't get it on!) Company says no return without original invoice, which wasn't in parcel, can I still return it as I have proof of order.
mummam - 13-Jan-16 @ 1:03 PM
Hello, I purchased a 6 month magazine subscription in May 2015. This ran until Dec 2015 but I have since found out that the subscription Was automatically renewed for a further 6 months. I immediately informed the company that I wished to cancel my subscription and wanted a refund. This was within a day of the new subscription payment being taken. They are refusing a refund, stating that they have no returns policy and that once a subscription has started it cannot be cancelled. This is despite not yet receiving any of the 6 monthly copies yet. Am I within my rights to request a refund? Thanks
Rums - 18-Dec-15 @ 9:30 PM
Hi. Ive just received some wall tiles which I ordered over the phone. They arrived yesterday, but are the wrong colour. I want to return them for a refund, but the company are trying to tell me they don't do refunds. Is that right?! Help!
H - 7-Aug-15 @ 3:24 PM
@Mike. Yes thanks. We're updating all these articles as and when we can.
OnlineShoppingRights - 23-Jun-15 @ 10:38 AM
The Distance Selling Regulations no longer apply in UK law. As of 13 June 2014 the Consumer Contracts Regulations - which implement the Consumer Rights Directive in UK law - apply to all purchases made at a distance. Among other things, it allows for a 14 day cooling off period.
Mike - 17-Jun-15 @ 10:53 PM
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