The definition of ‘consumer’ in the Consumer Contracts Regulations is an individual acting for purposes which are wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession.
If you’re booking a course for professional development purposes and this is close to what you do professionally already, you may not be seen as a consumer.
Here are some examples where you are unlikely to be regarded as a consumer when you book your course:
If you’re booking a course out of personal interest (which could also include you taking a course because you’re considering a career change), you will be seen as a consumer.
Here are some examples where you will be seen as a consumer booking a course:
This guide caters for consumers wishing to cancel a course they booked at a distance.
As a consumer, if you change your mind about a course you purchased online or at a distance, you have 14 days from entering into a service contract in which you can cancel it.
This right under the Consumer Contracts Regulations applies regardless of whether the course will be taken online or in person.
The course provider shouldn’t start providing the service before the 14-day cancellation period has ended, unless you’ve requested this, booked on last minute, or the online course is already open for you to start.
In this instance you will still have the right to cancel, but you must pay for the value of the service that was provided to you up to the point you cancel.
For example, if you buy an online course and then change your mind within the 14-day time period, you should be refunded a proportionate sum but could be charged for any admin or materials costs and the amount of teaching time you used.
The right to cancel will be lost during the cancellation period if the service is provided in full before the 14 days elapses.
The minimum cancellation period that consumers must be given is 14 days, but some course providers may choose to exceed this.
You should always check the terms and conditions in case you have longer to change your mind.
If the course you booked online is one that you’ll attend in person with a specified number of people and on a specific date, it may be defined as a leisure activity.
Leisure activities that are due to take place on a specified date are excluded from your cancellation rights.
Leisure activities usually cover events such as plays or football matches, but this could apply to some courses too.
It will depend a on what the course is and whether it would be defined as a leisure activity under that exemption.
For example, a one-off afternoon course in cut flower arranging with limited capacity could be classed as a leisure activity.
Traders may still choose to offer you the ability to cancel, but they are not obliged to do this.
Under the Consumer Rights Act, the course provider has a duty to do the following:
If the service you’re provided doesn’t satisfy these criteria, you’re entitled to the following remedies under the Consumer Rights Act:
Which? has heard reports of people being upsold to the next level of a course, only to find the course content is almost exactly the same as the one they’d just completed.
If you’ve been mis-sold a course over the phone, over email or online, you can cancel the course in the same way as if you’d changed your mind and get your money back.
If you think you were mis-sold the course, you can also complain to the course provider about the sharp practice, and seek compensation if you’ve lost money through the process.
Under the Regulations, a commercial practice is 'unfair' if:
A commercial practice will also be unfair if it constitutes a misleading action. For example, if:
A trader will be committing an offence under the Regulations if it knowingly or recklessly engages in an 'unfair' practice.
If you've been the victim of a misleading action, you will have 90 days to end the contract and get a refund.
You can only receive a refund if you haven't fully used the goods or digital products, or received a service in full.
So, if you take the full course and don’t complain until the end, you won’t get your money back.