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Understanding UK Distance Selling Rules

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 27 Jun 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]
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
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
Rob - 4-May-17 @ 3:20 PM
Are products bought and paid for online but then collected in store still covered by the Consumer Contracts Regulations (formerly Distance selling Regulations) meaning I would have 14 days to get a refund if I changed my mind?
huzz - 29-Apr-17 @ 4:14 PM
Hi. I bought a TV unit online which was described as stone grey and appeared a light grey colour on the website. On receipt, the TV stand was a brown colour and even the box stated the colour as 'stone'. I explained this to the retailer and they've replied to say that "the manufacturer had sent the correct item however there has been a recent change with the colour which does make the TV stand a bit darker." The product has since been removed from the retailer's website. They are only offering me a partial refund for the item however I feel the item is not 'as described' and therefore I am entitled to a full refund and collection of the other at their cost. Am I correct? Thanks
Kavtaztic - 13-Mar-17 @ 11:10 PM
I ordered a bespoke printed sticker online. The printer sent me 2 proofs explaining one print would overlay the other and where no artwork existed the remaining sticker would be transparent. When the product arrived the remaining sticker (outside the artwork area) was white and not transparent and was not therefore useable as designed. The printer has finally offered a refund but insists that I pay for the courier cost of returning the sticker which they intend to deduct from my refund. They also arranged with a courier to collect it but only notified me by email on the day of the collection but I was not a t home so there has now been an aborted courier collection which they also intend to deduct from my refund. From my reading of the Consumer Contracts Regulations I understand that I am due a full refund and all delivery or collection costs are the responsibility of the printer. What do you advise?
SMD - 27-Jan-17 @ 10:00 AM
I am a british citizen currently in Ukraine and purchased two phones from China. One was faulty and within the 7 day period I notified the person however he refused to refund or replace and said he will only fix it and asked me to send it back. I sent it back and today I received it and the fault is still the same. The phone screen does not show and I am paying so much on shipping and customs. I messaged him again and he said it was fixed and there is nothing he can do where refund or replacement is concerned. Can you please let me know if their is anything I can do?
OMUR - 26-Dec-16 @ 2:07 PM
We ordered a double bed using the telephone number given on the suppliers website, not through the website itself.At no point during that telephone conversation was it stated that the bed would be delivered flat-packed. On searching through the website following delivery, I did find one line of small text stating that deliveries were flat-pack, buried amongst a lot of other information. This to means that the information was not provided clearly, as had we known that we would not have made the order. Are we entitled to a full refund, including of all collection/returns charges?
OrderNotAsExpected - 10-Dec-16 @ 12:14 PM
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
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