Consumer Contracts Regulations

The Consumer Contracts Regulations - which came into force on 13 June 2014 and implement the Consumer Rights Directive - give you rights when shopping online, so you’re covered if things go wrong.
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Information you should expect 

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, as they are referred to in full, require traders to give you certain information.

The specific information varies depending on whether the sale is made at a distance or face-to-face or in store.

At a distance or face-to-face off-premises  The following key information has to be given:

  • a description of the goods or service, including how long any commitment will last on the part of the consumer 
  • the total price of the goods or service, or the manner in which the price will be calculated if this can’t be determined
  • cost of delivery and details of who pays for the cost of returning items if you have a right to cancel and change your mind
  • details of any right to cancel - the trader also needs to provide, or make available, a standard cancellation form to make cancelling easy (although you aren’t under any obligation to use it)
  • information about the seller, including their geographical address and phone number
  • information on the compatibility of digital content with hardware and other software is also part of the information traders are obliged to provide  

Delivery of key information

Failure to provide the required information, or to provide it in the way set out in the regulations, could result in cancellation rights being extended by up to a year.

The information should be given on paper unless you agree to take it on some other 'durable medium' like email, for example.

It can be provided in a way appropriate to the means of communication, so verbally if the contract is made by phone.

You are also entitled to confirmation of the contract and if the information wasn’t initially provided in a durable form, the trader must provide it at the point of confirmation.

On-premises sales  The trader doesn’t have to provide as much information in this instance, but it must still provide certain information. 

For example, information about the goods or services being bought, the price, the compatibility of digital content and details of any delivery costs.

Summary

  • Your right to cancel an order starts the moment you place your order and ends 14 days from the day you receive it
  • Your right to cancel a service starts the moment you enter into the contract and lasts 14 days
  • If you want to download digital content within the 14 day cancellation period you must agree to waive your cancellation rights 
  • Companies are not allowed to charge you for items they put in your online shopping basket or that you have bought as a result of a pre-ticked box

Cancelling goods

Your right to cancel

Your right to cancel an order for goods starts the moment you place your order and ends 14 days from the day you receive your goods. 

If your order consists of multiple goods, the 14 days runs from when you get the last of the batch.

This 14 day period is the time you have to decide whether to cancel, you then have a further 14 days to actually send the goods back.

Your right to a refund

You should get a refund within 14 days of either the trader getting the goods back, or you providing evidence of having returned the goods (for example, a proof of postage receipt from the post office), whichever is the sooner. 

A deduction can be made if the value of the goods has been reduced as a result of you handling the goods more than was necessary.

The extent to which a customer can handle the goods is the same as it would be if you were assessing them in a shop.

Refunding the cost of delivery

The trader has to refund the basic delivery cost of getting the goods to you in the first place, so if you opted for enhanced service eg guaranteed next day, it only has to refund the basic cost.

Exemptions

There are some circumstances where the Consumer Contracts Regulations won’t give you a right to cancel.

These include, CDs, DVDs or software if you've broken the seal on the wrapping, perishable items, tailor-made or personalised items. 

Also included are are goods that have been mixed inseparably with other items after delivery.

Always check the terms and conditions

Fourteen days is the minimum cancellation period that consumers must be given and many sellers choose to exceed this, so always check the terms and conditions in case you have longer to change your mind.

Cancelling services

Your right to cancel  You have 14 days from entering into a service contract in which you can cancel it.

The trader shouldn’t start providing the service before the 14 day cancellation period has ended, unless you have requested this.

If you request a service starts straightaway  In this instance you will still have the right to cancel, but you must pay for the value of the service that is provided up to the point you cancel.

For example, if you buy a service like gym membership and start using the gym and then change your mind within this 14 day time period, you will be refunded but could be charged for the amount of gym time you used.

If the service is provided in full within 14 days  The right to cancel can be lost during the cancellation period if the service is provided in full before the 14 days elapses.  

Exemptions There are some contracts where you won’t have a right to cancel a service. For example, hotel bookings, flights, car hire, concerts and other event tickets, or where the trader is carrying out urgent repairs or maintenance.

Always check the t&cs  14 days is the minimum cancellation period that consumers must be given and many sellers choose to exceed this, so always check the terms and conditions in case you have longer to change your mind.  

Cancelling digital downloads

The Consumer Contracts Regulations contain specific provisions for digital content.

Retailers mustn’t supply digital content, such as music or software downloads, within the 14 day cancellation period, unless the consumer has given their express consent to this happening.

The consumer must also acknowledge that once the download starts they will lose their right to cancel.

If a consumer doesn’t give their consent, they have to wait until the cancellation period has ended before they can download the digital content.

This is to ensure the digital content is what you want before downloading it. 

Pre-ticked boxes

The Consumer Contracts Regulations make it clear that a trader won’t be able to charge a consumer for an item where it was selected for the consumer as part of that purchasing process, rather than the consumer actively choosing to add it to their basket.

For example, retailers are not allowed to charge for an extended warranty if it was added into your basket as a result of a pre-ticked box.

If a company does charge you in this way, you are entitled to your money back. 

Delivery of goods

The Consumer Rights Act, which came into force on 1 October 2015, says that the retailer is responsible for the condition of the goods until the goods are received by the consumer, or by someone else they have nominated to receive them on their behalf like a neighbour.

This means that the retailer is liable for the services provided by the couriers it employs - the delivery firm is not liable.

There is a default delivery period of 30 days during which the retailer needs to deliver unless a longer period has been agreed.

If your delivery is later than agreed and it was essential that it was delivered on time, then you have the right to terminate the purchase and get a full refund.

If the delivery isn’t time essential but another reasonable delivery time can’t be agreed, you’re also within your right to cancel the order for a full refund.

Returning faulty goods

If you receive faulty goods and wish to return them, The Consumer Contracts Regulations are in addition to your other legal rights.

So, if your goods are faulty and don’t do what they're supposed to, or don’t match the description given, you have the same consumer rights under the Consumer Rights Act (which replaces the Sale of Goods Act from 1 October 2015) as you have when buying in store.

Any terms and conditions that say you must cover the cost of returning an item wouldn’t apply where the goods being returned are faulty.

Excessive call charges 

The Consumer Contracts Regulations also prohibits helpline phone charges in excess of the basic rate for calls by existing customers to the retailer or trader about products purchased.

For example, if you are ringing to make a complaint, enquire about your order, or to cancel your order, retailers can't use premium rate numbers. They must provide a basic rate number for you to call.

The same applies to energy supplier customers. You must be provided with a basic rate number to call if you have an enquiry or complaint about your account. 

If you do have to call a company on a surcharged number about goods or services you have bought, or have agreed to buy, you have the automatic legal right to claim back the surcharge from the company.

These rules do not apply to sales calls.

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