The Consumer Contracts Regulations (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 provides further rights and protections when buying online or by other distance means. 

Here you can find out exactly what you can expect when purchasing goods or services online.

These rules will apply to all companies based within the EU, Iceland, Norway and the UK. If the business is based outside of these areas, things may be a little more complicated but we may still be able to assist. 

 

What Information are the company required to provide?

Company location - Traders based in the EU will be required to provide a geographical address for their business. This does not need to be prominent and could be within their terms and conditions, as long as it is provided. 

It is a common misconception that if a website has a .co.uk address or UK contact details that the business is based here. This is not necessarily the case.

If the address is difficult to find, you may have difficulty asserting your legal rights against this trader if there is a problem.

Pre-purchase information - The law states that the consumer must be given enough information, prior to the purchase, to enable them to make a suitably informed purchasing decision. In general terms, this means they cannot withhold important information or provide misleading information. 

As a minimum, you can expect that they will provide clear and accurate information for the following:

  • Description of the goods or service being purchased
  • Any extra charges, e.g. delivery costs
  • Total price to be paid at point of purchase
  • Duration of the contract - is it a one-off purchase or a subscription? If it is a subscription, it should detail the minimum duration and the ongoing cost per month. Note that a company is allowed to set up a contract to automatically renew at the end of the prescribed period but this should be detailed within the terms.
  • Your rights regarding cancellation and the cancellation procedure

There is a lot of information to be found within the terms and conditions, which could help you avoid all sorts of problems further down the line. We might be tempted to tick the box without really knowing what these terms say but you may find that by doing so, you have agreed to terms that may not be favourable to you or, in the case of services, you may have waived your right to cancel entirely. 

 

Other Rights The Regulations Provide:

Delivery - When you place an order you are normally given an indication of when the item will be delivered. The goods should be delivered within 30 days of placing the order, unless you have agreed on an alternative delivery date. 

If a company fails to deliver within the prescribed period, you may be entitled to cancel the order. 

Complaints - Consumers must be given details of the complaints policy and details of any Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) body that they are a member of. 

Outside of the regulated sectors, e.g. financial services, communications services, etc, where ADR is mandatory, companies can choose whether or not to use ADR to resolve disputes. If they are a member of a certain ADR body, they should provide details of that organisation. 

Cancellation - The regulations offer an important right to cancel that you may know as your 14 day cooling off period. 

The company should provide information on your cancellation rights, including any time limits and restrictions; their cancellation procedure; and whether or not there are any costs associated with the cancellation, e.g. if you will need to pay for the return. 

What is the 14 day cooling off period?

In simple terms, this means that the consumers have the right to cancel a contract at any time, and for any reason, within the first 14 days. 

This 14 day cancellation period begins the day after the goods are delivered. For services, this period begins when the contract was made.  

Where a service begins straight away, the trader should inform you that you will not be entitled to cancel the service for a full refund after the service has been performed. If the cancellation is within the prescribed period and the service has begun, the business will be able to charge for the proportion of service carried out - but you may still be able to get some money back if you act quickly.

If companies do not provide information on the cancellation period, this may extend the cancellation period by up to 1 year and 14 days.

Cancelling a contract is often referred to by companies as exercising your right to withdraw. To exercise your withdrawal rights, you must communicate this to the company by some durable medium, e.g. letter, e-mail or cancellation form. 

If you are sending back goods, legally, you are responsible for the costs of returning the product to the company. Although some companies can cover this cost, so it's always worth checking, they are not legally required to do so. 

When a consumer exercises their right to cancel the contract, the refund should be provided within 14 days.

There are some exemptions to the cooling-off period that will not have the same rights to cancel. These are listed below:

  • Medicinal products or services
  • Passenger transport services
  • Goods or services where prices are dependent on fluctuations in the financial market (Utilities such as water, gas and electricity are excluded from this and still offer a cancellation period)
  • Personalised or custom-made goods 
  • Goods that deteriorate quickly, e.g. meat, flowers, etc.
  • Alcohol purchased for investment purposes when the price is fixed by the contract, the value is subject to market fluctuations and delivery will take place after 30 days. 
  • Contracts for service where the consumer has requested urgent repairs or maintenance works
  • Newspapers, magazines and periodicals
  • Contracts concluded at auction (this does not include auctions that take place solely online, e.g. ebay)
  • Supply of accommodation, transport of goods, vehicle rental services,catering or leisure services if the contract specifies a date or time period.

If you cancel, any ancillary contracts such as warranties or finance are automatically cancelled.

Remember this relates to only to your withdrawal rights. If your goods or services are faulty or not as described, this will be covered by the Consumer Rights Act. Please see our goods and services pages. 

 

Useful Tips and Info…

  • When you place an order on a website for goods or services the order finalisation buttons must be labelled with 'pay now' or similar unambiguous words. There should be no doubt that you will have to pay something for this order.
  • Pre-ticked boxes for confirming you have read the T&C's, or to add on supplementary items, such as insurance or anything else are prohibited.
  • These regulations apply only to consumer goods and services and won't cover all purchases, for example, gambling, financial services, property sales and lettings, etc.
  • If the company provide a helpline, this should not be a premium rate number.

This information is intended as guidance only - to get specific advice to your situation please contact us.

 

Background (The boring bit!)

Directive 2011/83/EU on consumer rights, commonly referred to as the Consumer Rights Directive, establishes a minimum level of protection for consumers purchasing goods across the EU. All countries in the European Union, plus Iceland and Norway are required to implement this into their domestic law.

This is implemented into UK law by the Consumer Contracts Regulations (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, which makes the directive applicable in the UK. This also provides further rights and protections for consumers in the UK.

In simple terms, this means the UK's exit from the EU should not lower any of the consumer protections offered in this section.