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Distance Selling and The Law

Lindsay Brand
posted this on November 29, 2012 08:59

If you are selling goods online via your website, and you intend to have no face-to-face contact with your customer before purchase, you will have to comply with "The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000", more commonly referred to as "distance selling regulations".

The regulations considers a 'distance' contract as the following:

"Any contract concerning goods or services concluded between a supplier and a consumer under an organised distance sales or service provision scheme run by the supplier who, for the purpose of the contract, makes exclusive use of one or more means of distance communication up to and including the moment at which the contract is concluded;".

If your service and goods apply to the distance selling regulations you are required to conform with the following:

  • You are required to refund any item if the customer changes their mind within 7 working days after the day on which the item was delivered. This is often referred to as a "cooling off" period. You must refund the buyer for any delivery charges, but you can charge the buyer for the cost of returning the item back to you, if you clearly state this before purchase.
  • If you haven't provided the information about your business required under the Distance Selling Regulations (as briefly outlined in the numbered bullet points below) the buyer has up to 3 months to cancel the contract and get their money back.

Please note that, under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, there's no legal requirement for you to provide a refund if the customer just changes their mind after the cooling off period required for distance selling.

  • You must notify your customers, in good time before purchase, in a clear and comprehensible manner, all of the following:
  1. Your company's identity, physical address and email address.
  2. A description of your goods or services.
  3. The price of your goods or services including all taxes.
  4. Any delivery costs.
  5. The arrangements for payment, delivery or performance.
  6. Information regarding your customer's right of cancellation.
  7. Your VAT number (if you are VAT registered).
  8. The period for which any offer or price remains valid.
  9. Where appropriate, the minimum duration of the contract, in the case of contracts for the supply of goods or services to be performed permanently or recurrently.
  10. State if you are unable to provide substitute goods or services (as the case may be) of equivalent quality and price.
  11. State that the cost of returning any such substitute goods to the supplier in the event of cancellation by the consumer would be met by the supplier.

This is just a brief overview of what you must conform with when distance selling.

This is subject to many other conditions such as performance of services etc, so we strongly recommend you take some time to read carefully through the full distance selling regulations to ensure you fully comply.

You can find the full distance selling regulation here:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2000/2334/contents/made

Please also note that, as with any business selling goods or services, you should also be aware of and familiar with other regulations or acts such as:

Other useful resources about your website and the law can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/online-and-distance-selling-for-businesses
http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/738369/738375/OFT002_SOGA_explaine...

Please note that this guide is for information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Furthermore it is only applicable to sellers based in the UK.

If your business is based outside the UK, different rules will apply and you should seek local legal advice regarding this.

If you're unsure about how any of these laws apply to you, please seek advice from a lawyer, Consumer Direct or similar professional.