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Consumer Contracts Regulations & Distance Selling Rights

The Consumer Contracts Regulations provide consumers with legal protection when making purchases online or over the phone.

The Consumer Contracts Regulations (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges), or ‘CCR’ for short, were brought into law in June 2014. They replaced the Distance Selling Regulations.

In essence, they detail the powers you have if something goes wrong with goods or services you purchased over the internet or by telephone.

If your purchase was made after June 2014, you will be covered by the CCR. Distance purchases made before this date are dealt with under the Distance Selling Regulations.

Rights of consumers under the Consumer Contracts Regulations

When you purchase something, you enter into a contract with the seller. The Consumer Contracts Regulations specifies that before you enter into the contract you must be provided with a certain amount of information (detailed below). The CCR also state that you have the right to cancel the contract at any time during the ‘cooling off’ period and that you must receive confirmation of the contract.

One of the main areas covered by the Consumer Contracts Regulations is your right to cancel the contract.

Cancellation periods for goods and services

If the type of transaction allows it, you have the right to cancel the contract during the specified ‘cooling off’ or cancellation period without providing a reason to the seller. If you do wish to cancel you must clearly communicate this to the seller. This can be done verbally or in writing.

There are differing cancellation periods set out for goods and services. For goods, it is 14 calendar days after:

  • You (or someone nominated by you) physically receives the goods, or
  • You (or someone nominated by you) physically receives the last of the goods (if you ordered several separate goods as part of one transaction).

For example, you decide that you want to purchase a new TV. You see a great deal online and decide to buy it. From the moment you take physical possession of the TV you have 14 days to change your mind. You then have a further 14 days to return the TV.

For services the cancellation period is 14 days after the contract was made. The seller shouldn’t start supplying this service before the 14-day cooling-off period has ended, unless you specifically stated you wanted it to.

To illustrate this, you decide you want to learn how to build a website. You sign up to an e-learning course. You have 14 days from when you when enter into the contract to cancel it.

Responsibilities of businesses in distance selling

The Consumer Contracts Regulations states that businesses must provide you with specific information before the contract is completed. This information has to be provided to you in a ‘durable’ manner. It can be given verbally if you ordered something over the phone, written on paper, displayed on a webpage or delivered via email.

The act outlines a comprehensive list of information that the business must provide, some of these things include:

  • Details of the business; name, address, phone number, fax number, web address and email address.
  • Details of any third parties involved in the contract.
  • Total price of the good(s) or service(s) or digital content.
  • A detailed description of the good(s) or services(s) or digital content.
  • Dates of delivery and how the goods or services will be delivered.
  • Cost of delivery.
  • Payment details.
  • Process for returns or cancellations, including who is responsible for the cost of returning the items.
  • Details on your right to cancel. The business must provide you with a return form.
  • If you are purchasing digital content, you must be provided with information on its compatibility with hardware and other software.

Certain practices are also prohibited. For example, a business is not allowed to charge you for items that are added to your basket via a pre-ticked box, such as an extended warranty.

Why take legal advice on the Consumer Contract Regulations?

Not all transactions are covered under the Consumer Contracts Regulations. For example, financial services, like banking and pensions, are excluded from the terms of the CCR. If in doubt, take advice on your rights under the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

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