Protecting the consumer's rights



Wake up call: Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000

The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 implement...



Wake up call: Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000

The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 implement European law and apply to any business selling goods or services to people using any form of distance contracting, - mail order, telephone, television shopping or Internet.

Regulations

The regulations came into effect on 31 October 2000. They set out the information you must provide to the consumer before an order is placed and before delivery.

The consumer has seven days during which they have a right to cancel the contract, return the goods and demand a full refund.

However, the cooling off period may extend up to three months and seven working days from the date the consumer receives the goods. If you fail to provide the information the consumer is only responsible for taking "reasonable care" of the goods until they are returned. "Reasonable care" is not defined. It is arguable that a consumer is entitled to use the goods before exercising their right to cancel the contract and return them.

Fulfilment

Fulfilment must be performed within 30 days. Unless stated, you must refund the purchase price within 30 days from cancellation even if this is before the consumer has returned the goods.

Unless your terms and conditions impose an obligation on the consumer to return the goods if the contract is cancelled, he or she may hold on to the goods until collected. If you fail to collect the goods within 21 days, the consumer's duty of care may expire.

Information

You must provide certain information to consumers in good time and in a clear form before they place an order. While the information will be incorporated into your terms and conditions, it will be best practice to provide it separately in an accessible form appropriate to the medium in question.

The following must be confirmed in writing or other durable medium (such as e-mail) before the contract is concluded or on delivery:

  • your identity and if you require payment in advance of delivery, your address

  • a description of the goods or services

  • the price, including all taxes and delivery costs

  • the arrangements for payment, delivery or performance of service

  • the existence of the consumer's right to cancel.

    You must also provide in writing to the consumer, before the end of the contract, before delivery of the goods or during the performance of the services:

  • the procedure for exercising the consumer's right to cancel and return the goods

  • the consumer's obligation to return after cancellation

  • who will be responsible for returning the goods or recovering them

  • the geographical business address for complaints

  • details of after-sales services or guarantees

  • the consumer's contractual rights to terminate an ongoing contract (if appropriate).

    The following information must be supplied, but need not be in writing:

  • the cost of using the distance communications

  • the period the price or the offer remains valid

  • the minimum duration of the contract

  • whether substitutes will be supplied if the goods ordered are not available

  • whether the cost of returning them will be met by the consumer or you (NB, you must pay the cost of returning substitute goods).

    Simon Jones (0121-262 5702) David Glover (0121-262 5950) are solicitors at DLA

    Rights to watch

  • Train the workforce to meet your responsibilities to customers

  • Make sure you know your rights as well as the consumer's

  • Be clear about what must be notified in writing, and monitor verbal information systems

  • Read more on IT legislation and regulation

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