Changes in consumer law
From 13 June 2014, the Consumer Contracts Regulations apply to all purchase you make at a distance, so either online, mail order, over the phone or through a shopping channel.
The Consumer Contracts Regulations replaced the Distance Selling Regulations.
Cooling-off period for goods
Your right to cancel an order starts the moment you place your order and doesn't end until 14 days from the day you receive your goods.
As this 14-day period is the time you have to decide whether to cancel, the seller can’t say that you must have returned the goods within this timeframe.
There are some orders where you won't have the right to cancel.
These include items that are bespoke or personalised, goods likely to deteriorate rapidly, CDs, DVDs and computer software where the seal is broken.
You also don't have a right to cancel goods with a seal for health protection and hygiene reasons that's been broken.
- For most goods you buy online you have a 14-day cooling-off cancellation period, which doesn't end until 14 days from the day you receive your goods.
- For most services you buy online you have a 14-day cooling-off cancellation period from the day you place your order.
- If you want to download something within 14 days of buying it online, you have to give your consent to waive the 14-day cooling-off period.
Cancelling your order
The Consumer Contracts Regulations enable you to cancel in writing, by fax or by email, although it’s sensible to stick with the process the seller has set up - if it’s reasonable.
Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations you should be provided with a cancellation form at the point of sale, although you don't have to use it.
Most online sellers will provide an email address you can send a cancellation to.
Find out how to cancel an online order with our step-by-step guide.
Cooling-off period for services
If you buy a service online you usually have a 14-day cooling-off period from the day you place your order.
Unlike the Distance Selling Regulations, you don't waive your right to cancel a contract within this cooling-off period even if you ask for the service to start straight away.
If you do choose to cancel an order within this time frame and the service has already started, you could be charged for the service that you have had the benefit of.
For example, if you buy a service like gym membership and start using the gym and then change your mind within the cooling off period, you will still be refunded but could be charged for the amount of gym time you used.
If you feel that you have been charged excessively in this instance, you can use the market rate to agree an amount you should pay for the service you have used.
Can't cancel on some services
There are some contracts for services bought at a distance where you won't have a right to cancel.
For example, a theatre trip, spa day or festival ticket, to be taken on a specific date or within a specified period of time, you don't have a right to cancel.
Also, if the service is complete before the cooling-off period ends you, don't have the right to cancel.
Use our template letter to make a written cancellation under the Consumer Contracts Regulations.
Cancelling a download
Digital downloads are given their own unique category and are therefore not services or goods.
A digital download is classed as data which is produced and supplied in digital form. For example, an eBook, Apps and online films.
If you want to download something within 14 days of buying it, you will have to give your consent to waive the 14 day cooling-off period.
If you don’t give your consent, the 14 day cooling-off period still applies but you won't be able to download your digital content until this period has ended.
This is to prevent you from changing your mind after you have download content.
If you're having a problem with a faulty download you may be able to claim a refund, repair or replacement under the Consumer Rights Act.