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Buying online

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Quick Links

- Regulations for buying goods
- What goods are excluded from the regulations

- Regulations for buying services

- Cancelling your order

- Returning the goods

- Penalties for non compliance with the regulations

Distance Selling – Buying Online

Lots of us shop online or by telephone and mail order and it is important to know how you are protected. All the usual protections you have when buying goods still apply but you have some extra protection because you can’t examine the goods properly before buying them.

Don’t forget the company you have bought the goods from might already have a generous no quibble returns policy, so it is always worth checking. It is always sensible to check the returns policy before you buy, especially if you are not sure about the purchase, or the seller, or it is very expensive.

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What rights do the Regulations provide when you buy goods online?

Consumer protection requires the seller to:

  • Give you clear prior information about the goods or services, including:
  • A clear description of the goods or services.
  • The supplier's contact details.
  • Details of cost and payment, including taxes.
  • Delivery arrangements, or date for service to be carried out.  
  • Cancellation rights.
  • Give you a cooling-off period starting from the time you place the order to seven working days after you receive the goods.
  • Give you written confirmation of the order which must include all of the information listed above. This information must be provided to you before the conclusion of the contract or in ‘good time’ so you have sufficient time to make decisions based on the information.

From the 13th of June 2014 there are some new rules which apply to buying goods online:

1)     The ‘cooling off period’ where you have the right to cancel an online contract is being extended from 7 days to 14 days. The main exemptions to this are personalized goods, or goods which will perish or deteriorate rapidly.

2)     You have to given specific information before you can enter into an online contract. This includes:

  • The main characteristics of the goods or services.
  • The identity of the trader.
  • The total price, including any taxes.
  • Any additional delivery charges and any other costs.

3)     Where an order is finalized by clicking a button (as on most websites) it must be clear that clicking the button creates an obligation on you to pay.

4)     If you withdraw from or cancel a contract, you must return the goods within 14 days and the retailer must reimburse you within 14 days of receiving the goods.

5)     “Pre-ticked” boxes for additional payments will be banned. Now if you want a more expensive delivery option or additional insurance, you’ll have to tick the box yourself rather than it being automatically ticked. Now you don’t need to remember to “un-tick” the “pre-ticked” boxes!

6)     Where you have a right to cancel a contract, the trader should provide you with a model cancellation form.

7)     If the trader fails to provide certain pre-contract information, the cancellation period can be extended up to a year in certain circumstances.

8)     Where a distance contract has been entered into, businesses must provide you (no later than the date on which the goods are to be delivered) confirmation of the contract (including specific information) by email or on paper.

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Do the these rights apply to all goods?

No, there are some significant exceptions which you need to know about:

  • Financial services.
  • Business to business contracts.
  • Sale of land or buildings.
  • Purchases from a vending machine or automated commercial premises.
  • The use of a public pay phone.
  • Auctions, including internet auctions.
  • Rental agreements that have to be in writing (i.e. a lease for three years or more).
  • Some construction contracts.

Additionally there are some goods which although not exempt from the Regulations are however exempt from the right to cancel within the cooling off period. These are:

  • personalised goods or goods made to your specification.
  • goods that cannot, by their nature, be returned.
  • perishable goods (e.g. flowers, fresh food).
  • un-sealed audio or video recordings or computer software.
  • newspapers, periodicals or magazines.
  • betting, gaming or lottery services.
  • services that begin, by agreement, before the end of the cancellation period providing the supplier has informed you before the conclusion of the contract, in writing or another durable medium, that you will not be able to cancel once performance of the services has begun e.g. ordering theatre tickets for a performance which takes place before the end of the cancellation period.
  • goods or services, the price of which is dependent on fluctuations in the financial market.

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How do these rights apply to services?

If you're buying a service, rather than goods, you can usually cancel most agreements within 7 working days of entering into the contract. However the 7 day period will not start to run until you have received all the relevant information including details of your right to cancel. From the 13th of June 2014 the right to cancel is being extended from 7 to 14 days and you have similar rights to those which apply to buying goods online.

As with buying goods from a distance there are some things that cannot be cancelled such as:

  • Contracts for travel such as flights, car hire, train tickets.
  • Some leisure activities such as hotel bookings, concerts and other events.
  • Any contracts for services where it has been agreed the service will start before the right to cancel period has passed.

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How do I cancel the goods or services?

If the contract is unclear on how you must cancel, you need to communicate your cancellation in writing or in some other durable form like email. You cannot cancel by phone. There may be consequences of you cancelling, depending on what you agreed to when you ordered the goods or services.

From the 13th of June 2014, if you have a right to cancel the contract, the business should provide you with a model cancellation form and inform you of your cancellation rights.

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Do I have to pay to return the goods?

Check the contract, but you may have to pay to return the goods to the seller.

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What can I do if a seller does not give me my rights?

You should contact your local authority trading standards office and/or the Office of Fair Trading. You can find your local trading standards office here and you can find out more about the Office of Fair Trading here.



Other areas that may be of interest.

Employment  | Wills Family Law Resources