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Consumers get new online shopping rights

Government clamps down on poor online selling practices

Online-shopping 2

Consumers’ rights on cancellations and refunds when shopping online are to be strengthened today as new rules come into force. 

The Consumer Contracts Regulations, which implement the Consumer Rights Directive in UK law, replace the Distance Selling Regulations and the Doorstep Selling Regulations to give consumers greater protection when shopping online. 

The new rules also prevent companies from charging customers for items that are added using a pre-ticked box on a website. 

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: ‘The Consumer Rights Directive will give people greater protection against rogue traders and strengthen their rights when shopping online. 

‘These changes, coupled with the new Consumer Bill of Rights, will give people more power to challenge bad practice.’ 

Clearer information when you buy

The regulations – which also apply to doorstep sellers, TV shopping channels and telesales – clarify the information that companies must provide at the point of sale.

This includes providing contact details, a description of what the customer is buying, the total price of the order and the cost of delivery.

Greater cancellation and refund rights

You now have 14 days in which you are allowed to cancel an order for goods or services bought at a distance. There are some exemptions, to find out more read our guide to cancelling your order.

A refund for both goods and services must also now be given within 14 days. For services, this 14-day period starts the moment you cancel your contract.

For goods, it starts from the moment the retailer receives the goods back, or when you have provided proof of sending the goods back – whichever is soonest.

Find out more on returning items bought online.

No more unexpected pre-ticked box charges

Companies are no longer allowed to charge you for any items which are already pre-selected for in a pre-ticked box during your purchasing process.

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

No more excessive call charges for customers

The Consumer Contracts Regulations also prohibit helpline phone charges in excess of the basic rate for calls made by customers to a retailer or trader about products they’ve purchased.

For example, if you are ringing to make a complaint, enquire about your order, or to cancel your order, companies can’t use premium rate numbers.

Richard Lloyd added ‘as part of this new directive companies and public bodies will also have to provide basic rate numbers for all customer service and complaint telephone lines, which is a win for the 88,000 people who supported our Costly Calls campaign.’

Read more on how to avoid costly calls

Clarification on digital download rights

The Consumer Contracts Regulations contain specific provisions for digital content.

Retailers can’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. 

Find out more about digital downloads.

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