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Understanding UK Distance Selling Rules

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 1 Dec 2019 | 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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Hi there I'm after some advice please I have recently purchased a brand new gas fire online from a large online company. And in my search, I asked in the search box for " A Flavel Emberglow LPG Gas Fire". and it listed 136 Result(s) found for 'LPG Flavel Emberglow' and I found one at a price that I thought was reasonable and I placed the order and I took up the 12 months interest free payment plan, it also said it had a price match guarantee which I did find the same fire like for like cheaper on another website and so I filled out the details and sent them the name of the other supplier and the price, they said that they would get back to me once they had checked the detail out and they gave me a reference number 817859. and said I should hear something within 24 hrs, The Company I purchased my fire from is called "Plumbworld" The purchase happened on the 28/11/19 and the Fire was delivered the next day and I was in a bit of a shock as I was not expecting it and had not been given a delivery date but it arrived on the 29/11/19. After the fire arrived I checked my emails to see if I had been sent a delivery time and I had missed it and it was at this point that things started to go pear-shaped. I did have an email but it was saying that at this point they could oblige me and was not able to offer any reduction, and then I saw the bombshell the final few words at the end of the email said that my fire was not an LPG gas fire. I was dumbstruck and so I sent them a polite email explaining that I had ordered this fire from a search from their webpage and that I had asked them for a Flavel Emberglow LPG gas fire and that is what I had asked them to price match I had clearly stated on a number of times in my search and my price check for an LPG gas fire but they still sent out the wrong fire and said that the fire iI had was not an LPG and so I asked if they knew it was not an LPG and that it was LPG I was Enquiring about and in fact ordered then why did they send out something I clearly had not ordered. After I had sent my email of disappointment and frustration at their handling of my order they replied saying that they did not do any LPG fires at all. And at this I was now very angry as I had informed a Gas Engineer that my fire had arrived and could he give me a time when he could install the fire, which luckily I am still waiting to hear back from him. Anyway I decided to take further action and I found the CEO's email address and I sent him an email explaining everything I had done in purchasing my new gas fire, I also told him that I was a Disabled widower living on my own in a very rural area and internet shopping was a necessity for me when ordering large items. I am still waiting to hear back from him however, I contacted their customer service department voicing my anger at been mis-sold this fire on their internet website, and I said that there were 2 options firstly that they could arrange collection of the mis-sold item at their cost
Gordy. - 1-Dec-19 @ 1:07 AM
I purchased some dresses online for my daughter but was unsure on sizing so ordered more than 1 size. The items were on sale but assumed due to distant selling regulations I would be refunded when I returned the items. However it states o. Their website I will only be offered a credit note. Is this correct or do I have grounds for a refund as thought as part of distant selling regulations I was covered for a refund even on sale items?
Muzzy - 12-Oct-19 @ 3:43 PM
Hi, I've placed a large order with Amazon that was split up into several different delivers the largest 2 of which I was told that I would have to provide a signature for, but they never turned up and obviosly have not been signed for by myself but showing on Amazon as marked as "handed to resident" I've informed them of this and they have closed my account for "too many missing items/ too many refunds issued"I have had to make returns for items that have arrived damaged or have failed within warranty, I'm also disabled so struggle to get out so order alot from them for stuff that I wasn't sure if iit was the right item I had needed for the purpose until it turned up, so returned those items too. They have alos left packages outside of our front door when we have no safe place listed on our account for parcels as they have left them there before makred "as handed to resident" and gone missing. They are also saying "Any A-z claims will not be investigated and refunds will not be issued for these requests." So I will not be receiving a refund for the items that have gone missing or for the items I have received in the smaller deliveries items that have were damaged on delivery (Games that came with cracked cases and loose cd inside) that Amazon themselves have agreed to and started the returns process already some of which are already in the post back to them. Which I won't be receiving a refund for due to them closing my account. What am I able to do?
Karl - 19-Sep-19 @ 10:36 PM
Hi, I've placed a large order with Amazon that was split up into several different delivers the largest 2 of which I was told that I would have to provide a signature for, but they never turned up and obviosly have not been signed for by myself but showing on Amazon as marked as "handed to resident" I've informed them of this and they have closed my account for "too many missing items/ too many refunds issued"I have had to make returns for items that have arrived damaged or have failed within warranty, I'm also disabled so struggle to get out so order alot from them for stuff that I wasn't sure if iit was the right item I had needed for the purpose until it turned up, so returned those items too. They have alos left packages outside of our front door when we have no safe place listed on our account for parcels as they have left them there before makred "as handed to resident" and gone missing. They are also saying "Any A-z claims will not be investigated and refunds will not be issued for these requests." So I will not be receiving a refund for the items that have gone missing or for the items I have received in the smaller deliveries items that have were damaged on delivery (Games that came with cracked cases and loose cd inside) that Amazon themselves have agreed to and started the returns process already some of which are already in the post back to them. Which I won't be receiving a refund for due to them closing my account. What am I able to do?
Karl - 19-Sep-19 @ 11:37 AM
Hi, I've placed a large order with Amazon that was split up into several different delivers the largest 2 of which I was told that I would have to provide a signature for, but they never turned up and obviosly have not been signed for by myself but showing on Amazon as marked as "handed to resident" I've informed them of this and they have closed my account for "too many missing items/ too many refunds issued"I have had to make returns for items that have arrived damaged or have failed within warranty, I'm also disabled so struggle to get out so order alot from them for stuff that I wasn't sure if iit was the right item I had needed for the purpose until it turned up, so returned those items too. They have alos left packages outside of our front door when we have no safe place listed on our account for parcels as they have left them there before makred "as handed to resident" and gone missing. They are also saying "Any A-z claims will not be investigated and refunds will not be issued for these requests." So I will not be receiving a refund for the items that have gone missing or for the items I have received in the smaller deliveries items that have were damaged on delivery (Games that came with cracked cases and loose cd inside) that Amazon themselves have agreed to and started the returns process already some of which are already in the post back to them. Which I won't be receiving a refund for due to them closing my account. What am I able to do?
Karl - 19-Sep-19 @ 1:55 AM
We agreed to buy a pre-registered car from a dealership but have not seen the car (it was at another dealership) is this type of sale covered by distance selling regulations?
kfc - 24-Jun-19 @ 10:57 AM
Hi I shop with qvc. I have been a customer of theirs for over 20 years. So I have returned the odd itemBut I am very upset as I have receivesome nasty calls from them for returning too many items. Is this legal and harassment?
Misty - 30-May-19 @ 4:24 PM
Hi, I ordered a moisturiser from an online retailer (Beauty Cow), but when I received the product I realised I ordered the wrong one - the product names are very similar. I contacted the company today and enquired how to return the product (no return slip in package). They said I have to pay the postage fees as stated in their t&cs. I read the t&c's and it does say customers will incur return postage costs. I assume this is fine? However, they also said that I would be charged a £3.99 admin fee for returning the product. This will be deducted from my refund. The product is unopened and I will be returning it today. I do not think this is fair / good practice. Plus it was not highlighted / brought to my attention at the time of purchase. Are they allowed to do this? Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.
Farah Bhim - 21-Feb-19 @ 3:32 PM
Hi My husband wanted to schedule video releases via twitter ads and did so without realizing that he had started 'campaign'.He started this 'campaign' on 2nd Feb and then received notification from his bank on 9th Feb that he was now over his overdraft limit.He discovered he paying over £75 per day in automatic bidding, total spend was £550.He does not recall ever setting a daily budget for this campaign or authorising this, but he did however unfortunately load on his credit card details to Twitter Ads. I tried to 'pause' the campaign but the pause button wasn't working, so managed to work out how to 'delete' the campaign. This stopped further funds being accrued.Unfortunately the Twitter Ad help is extremely unhelpful and despite repeated appeals to have this reviewed we are getting nowhere.We feel that he was never given a clear indication of the costs in a coherant way, he certainly did not receive an email in advance confirming this.I have asked for copies of confirmation from Twitter of this but have had no response.Is there anything we can do here as it's obviously a huge hit to us financially. We'd very much appreciate your advice. Thanks
AB - 13-Feb-19 @ 1:43 PM
Hello My name is Adrian and I live in Bucharest Romania.  Last week we called Gotogate for two round-trip tickets from Bucharest to Tenerife.  We paid the tickets, we received the confirmation, but after 24 hours Gotogate announced that the departure flight was canceled and that they are only returning the money for the departure flight and to address another flight company so that we can leave Bucharest to Tenerife.  The company refuses to return the money for the return flight even though I explained to them that I did not find another flight to Tenerife and paid for the hotel, car rental, etc. More serious is the fact that all flights in this period from Bucharest to Tenerife are reserved by two companies, one of which is Gotogate.  When they stopped our return flights, they knew that no departure flights were available.  Can you help me with some advice?   Thanks a lot for your support
Bebe - 4-Aug-18 @ 12:51 PM
Woody - Your Question:
HiI am having a bloody battle with ASOS atm. I have returned items on the 11th July, which they have received on the 12th and I am now being told that due to a busy period I have to wait till the 27th before my refund to be processed and then have to wait upto another 5 days for the funds to clear?!?!?! This just doesnt seem fair. They have the items, but I am being told to wait! Is this correct?

Our Response:
Consumer Rights legislation says thatthe retailer is obliged to issue a full refund within 14 days of when you return the goods. The retailer must therefore refund you by 27th July at the latest, so yes, they are correct.
OnlineShoppingRights - 23-Jul-18 @ 3:36 PM
Hi I am having a bloody battle with ASOS atm. I have returned items on the 11th July, which they have received on the 12th and i am now being told that due to a busy period i have to wait till the 27th before my refund to be processed and then have to wait upto another 5 days for the funds to clear?!?!?! This just doesnt seem fair. They have the items, but i am being told to wait! Is this correct?
Woody - 20-Jul-18 @ 2:56 PM
I sold a piece of furniture to a customer online. Normally I'd deliver within days but the customer asked if I'd store the item for a few weeks whilst her house was being decorated (the item is a one off piece). There was not a definite deadline but I was happy to do this at no cost to help clinch the sale..The customer bought the item. After 3 weeks the customer contacted me to ask if I could store the item for a couple more weeks and then look to have item delivered. Again no problem. Now after storing the item she bought 5 weeks ago she has decided she wants a refund. Where do I stand? I understand there is a 14 days cooling off period after the item is delivered however the customer chose to delay the item delivery by almost 6 weeks. It certainly wasn't free storage for 6 weeks with the one off piece taken off the market with a view to changing her mind. Can someone please advise if 14 days still applies when it's the customer who chose not to get the item immediately despite it being available to them?
Nicci - 13-Jun-18 @ 9:49 PM
So i contacted a lady to help make me a meditation/self hypnosis recording for me personally. I filled out a form of questionsand emailed her them . She apparentlydid therecording for me before asking for payment. I have since decided against it and no longer want the recording. I told her I didn’t want it and now she is saying she wants me to pay the full price for her time even though I don’t want the recording. Where do I stand? Am I expected to pay?
Bambi - 4-Jun-18 @ 9:17 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
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
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
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