The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges)
Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) traders are required to give you specific information about the products and/or services that you purchase. The regulations were introduced in June 2014 and they are only applicable to a contract that was entered into after or on that date. The information that must be provided will vary depending on whether the purchase was made; online, over the telephone, in a store or off premises through a face to face meeting.
A business who makes off premise or distance sales must provide the consumer with specific pieces of information such as:
Clear Contact Information
Traders should clearly state their contact information, ideally on their own contact page. This should list their full trading name, the name of the company (if different) and a contact telephone number and email address. If the retailer acts or trades on behalf of another retailer, the name and address of both companies should be provided.
Any reputable retailer would already follow good practice and do this as a matter of course. Even if the company does this, the page where this information is listed should be very easy to locate on a website. Businesses should not bury contact telephone numbers deep in the pages of the website where it is almost impossible to find.
Contact Numbers That Aren’t Premium Rate
When a customer needs to contact a business, they should be able to do so using a contact number that is charged at a local or standard rate. Premium rate numbers cannot be used. This contact number is specifically for customers who would like to contact the business about an order that they have placed. Numbers starting with 0871, 0870, 09, 084, 09 or 0872 cannot be used. That being said, these numbers can be still used for other areas of the business such as technical support.
Where a premium rate number is used for a certain element of the business, customers must be notified that these numbers will cost more than the standard rate.
Unambiguous product descriptions
Any product that is listed for sale should be accompanied with a clear and accurate description (including compatibility where necessary). Providing information on compatibility is usually relevant when selling products such as electrical goods like plugs or headphones or certain pieces of software.
This is considered to be good practice and it builds trust with consumers. It also helps reduce the number of returns that a business will have to process. For products that are downloadable such as music, digital rights management (DRM) restrictions should be clearly stated on the product page.
Although the regulations do not require or expect a business to check compatibility or know about compatibility issues in relation to the system that the consumer buys the product for.
Some businesses will provide a low price for a product or service and then load sales tax or VAT at the checkout, often once the consumer has entered their details. Often, a low price is stated on the product page as an incentive to buy, with the VAT being added halfway or even further through the transaction, either in the hope that consumers don’t see it, or the consumer continues anyway because they are so close to completing the transaction.
Although businesses can no longer follow this practice, it is still used for business customers. Good practice would suggest that the price with VAT is clearly stated.
Cooling Off Period
When the Distance Selling Regulations were applicable, customers had a total of 7 working days to cancel their contract. This date ran from the day the contract was agreed or when a product was bought. The new regulations take this a step further and have introduced a minimum cooling off period of 14 calendar days and the timescale runs from the day that the consumer actually receives the product.
If a customer is not issued with information about their rights for the cooling off period in the terms and conditions, the timeframe can be extended as long as 12 months. Cooling off periods do not apply to products that have been personalised or customised, but they do apply to traders to sell products through eBay.
The new regulations state that businesses must meet the costs associated with returns unless there is something specifically stated in their terms and conditions that says otherwise. The regulations also outline that a trader must provide the consumer with advance notice, ideally before they make a purchase that they are responsible for meeting the costs of returns.
Where the product is large or heavy, the retailer should provide an estimate of the cost associated with the return.
When a customer returns a product for a refund, the retailer would typically have 30 days to process the refund. However, the new regulations have reduced this to 14 days and this 14 days will run from the date that the customer cancelled their order or notified the company of their intention to return the product.
Retailers are entitled to wait until they have received proof that the product has been returned before the refund is processed. Proof of postage or evidence from a courier is acceptable proof.
The new regulations state that businesses must provide:
- A clear description of the service, goods or digital content and details about the length of any contract or commitment
- The full price of the service, product or digital product and how this price is calculated if it is not clear
- How the consumer is to pay for the product or service and when they will be supplied
- Any delivery charges or other costs
- Information about returns such as who is responsible for meeting the cost of returning the product and whether there is an option to cancel or for the consumer to change their mind
- Details on rights to cancel. Where this exists, the trader must provide or make it freely available a cancellation form to make the process as easy as possible.
- Seller information such as their geographical address and adequate contact details
- Where the trader sells digital content, this should include a note on compatibility issues with software that they should be reasonably aware of
About the author:
This article was written for Allaboutuklaw by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team and posted by Lloyd Barrett. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.