How do I cancel an online order?

You have the right to cancel an online order under the Distance Selling Regulations. Get the lowdown on the law and find out how to cancel an order.

Summary

  • Most but not all online orders can be cancelled, for example bespoke or personalised items can't be
  • Your right to cancel an order starts the moment you place it and doesn't end until 14 days from the day you receive your goods
  • Return your order as soon as possible - but don't forget to get proof of postage

1 Cancel an online order right away

Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations your right to cancel an order starts the moment you place it and doesn't end until 14 days have passed from the day your goods were delivered to you, your nominated neighbour or your dedicated safe place.

You should be given the ability to cancel an order at the point of sale. For example, this could be an online form or instructions to contact.

You can cancel an online order in writing, by fax or by email, and a cancellation form should also be made available although it’s sensible to stick with the process the retailer has set up - if it’s reasonable.

The retailer shouldn’t make cancelling an online order unnecessarily difficult. For example, you shouldn't need to call to get authorisation to return an item. You also shouldn't be told that items can’t be returned unless you’ve got a cancellation code.

Check the retailer's T&Cs and returns policy, as these will often set out the returns process, which will be especially relevant to you if the order is already in transit and you may need to return it once it’s been delivered.

If your order is in transit already, you probably won’t be able to cancel it before it reaches you. 

But, remember that you still have the right to cancel the item for up to 14 days after you’ve received it. Once you’ve confirmed with the retailer you’d like to cancel your order, you then have a further 14 days to return it.

Items you can't cancel

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, or where the seal is broken on CDs, DVDs and computer software.

They also include goods with a seal for health protection and hygiene reasons that's been broken.

2 Cancelling after waiting over agreed timeframe

Retailers have to deliver within the time frame they promise in their contract. So check your original order to see what period of time has been outlined.

If no time frame is agreed for delivery, the Consumer Rights Act says retailers must deliver your item within 30 days of your order. This also applies to goods bought face-to-face.

So, if you’ve been waiting a long time for something you’ve bought to arrive and your goods still haven’t arrived after the time frame specified, you can cancel your order and get a refund.

Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations, your right to cancel an online order for goods starts the moment you place your order and ends 14 days from the day your goods are delivered to you, your nominated neighbour or your approved safe place. You then have a further 14 days from the date you notified the retailer you were cancelling your order to return the goods.

You can also cancel if the retailer doesn't provide the goods or service within a reasonable time.

What constitutes a reasonable time can depend on the item you've bought. Retailers often don't specify a time limit for delivery, so defining what is reasonable can be tricky.

But if you were given an estimated delivery time of seven days and you've been waiting 20 days, this could be seen as being an unreasonable time period to wait for delivery.

Make time of the essence!

When you make 'time of the essence' to your contract with the retailer you can treat the contract as being at an end and demand a full refund if it misses your deadline delivery date.

For example, most contracts for the purchase of new furniture will allow retailers up to eight weeks to deliver your goods.

These types of contracts will normally state that the retailer will endeavour to deliver within that time, but that they will not be in breach of contract if they don't deliver within the eight-week period.

Obviously, if they go beyond this time, without any genuine excuse as to the reason for the delay, then you'll be able to give them a deadline - making 'time of the essence' to your contract - in which to deliver the goods.

If they then miss that deadline you can claim your contract is at an end and demand a full refund.

3 Use our template letters

Most online retailers will provide an email address you can send cancellations to, or you can use our template letters.

Use our template letter to make a written cancellation under the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

4 Return your online order

Once you’ve confirmed you would like to cancel your order with the retailer, it will usually be your responsibility to return the goods if they are already with you.

Usually you'll have to bear the direct cost of doing so too, unless the retailer has offered to collect them or they can't be posted.

Importantly, the goods must be returned within 14 calendar days of the confirmed cancellation. If you don't return the goods during this time, the retailer may not be required to refund any payment.

If the retailer failed to provide you with information that you would have to pay to return the goods, the retailer should pay for the goods to be returned.

Faulty or damaged goods?

It's important to note that the Consumer Contracts Regulations doesn't affect your rights under the Consumer Rights Act where goods are faulty.

If your goods arrive damaged in the post or your goods become faulty, you still have a right to refuse them and get a refund, repair or replacement.

5 Check who pays postage

If the T&Cs or returns policy doesn't state who pays for returns, the Consumer Contracts Regulations say the retailer must cover the cost of postage.

Make sure you check whether the retailer will arrange to collect the goods or whether it will cover your postage costs.

6 Getting a refund

The Consumer Contracts Regulations also state that you should get a refund within 14 days of either the retailer getting the goods back or you providing evidence of having returned the goods (for example, a proof of postage from the post office) - whichever is the sooner.

If you cancel your order, the retailer has to refund your money within 30 days at the latest.

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.

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