Consumers gained important new rights when the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 became law on 13 June 2014. The Regulations implemented an EU Directive (2011/83/EU) to standardise trading rules across the EU and encourage consumer confidence and cross-border trade. The Regulations replace the Distance Selling Regulations for online contracts.
The Regulations apply to contracts between ‘Traders’ (who act in the course of trade or business) and ‘Consumers’ (people acting for purposes outside trade or business). The Regulations put legal obligations on traders to supply information and give consumers extended rights in relation to cancellation. The Regulations distinguish between three types of contract:
- ‘on-premises’ – usually where trader and consumer are present at the trader’s place of business;
- ‘off-premises’ – usually where trader and consumer are present at a place other than the trader’s place of business; and
- ‘distance’ – online, mail order and telesales contracts.
There are different rights and responsibilities depending on the type of contract. The Regulations do not apply to all contracts – for example gaming, insurance, property sales/rentals, and contracts for health care are not covered.
For distance or online contracts, the Trader must supply the following information:
- the main characteristics of the goods or services;
- the identity of the trader, including address, phone number and email to enable the consumer to contact the trader quickly;
- the total price of the goods or services inclusive of taxes and all additional delivery charges and other costs;
- arrangements for payment, delivery, performance, and the time when the goods will be delivered or the services performed;
- information about rights to cancel the contract
- a reminder of the duty to supply goods that conform with the contract; and
- the availability after-sales support.
In addition to the information obligations on the trader, a consumer also has the right to cancel a contract for goods without giving a reason up to 14 days after the day on which the goods were received, or up to 12 months later if the trader does not provide the cancellation information required. If traders don’t provide the information set out in the Regulations, the contract is potentially unenforceable – the Trader can’t sue for the price; and the failure is also a breach of contract, allowing the Consumer to sue for damages.
We’re happy with the new obligations imposed by the Consumer Contracts Regulations – like a lot of so-called red-tape or EU regulation, compliance is only a problem for those who don’t want to comply. And increasing consumer rights helps ensure a level playing field for businesses – like our’s – who want to treat customers fairly.
Our existing product description and delivery information go beyond what the regulations require. We’ve tweaked our returns page and form to include some extra information. And we continue to go further than the letter and spirit of the law by extending the returns period to 30 days, giving business or trade customers the same rights as consumers, and almost always accepting the return of bespoke products.