In June 2014, the new Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 came into force.
These consolidate and replace the previous rules on doorstep selling and distance selling between a trader and a consumer. Doorstep sales are now referred to as “off premises contracts”.
In broad terms, a consumer may return goods up to 14 days after delivery or cancel any contract for services within the first 14 days after the start of the contract, in both cases without giving any reason. You must also ensure you notify the consumer of this right in writing or by email.
What is an off-premises contract?
The scope is wider than just doorstep selling (i.e. in a consumer’s home) and any contract entered into between a trader and consumer away from the trader’s usual business premises is likely to be caught by the new rules.
What is a distance contract?
A distance contract is one that is entered into between a trader and a consumer under an organised distance sales or service-provision scheme without the two parties being in each other’s presence, with the exclusive use of one or more means of distance communication (e.g. telephone, email, e-Commerce) up to and including the time at which the contract is made.
There must be an “organised scheme” and therefore occasional one-off distance sales will not constitute distance contracts under the regulations.
Are there any exceptions to the right to cancel?
There are many exceptions to the right to cancel. For example, perishable items, made-to-measure or personalised goods and sealed CDs, DVDs, computer games etc where the seal has been broken by the consumer. BHW Solicitors can advise you on whether or not your particular goods or services are likely to be exempt.
Who pays delivery charges for returned goods?
In most cases (unless the consumer requested enhanced delivery changes) you must refund the original delivery charges.
You can usually ensure that the consumer pays for the cost of return but you must ensure that this is stated clearly (in writing or by email) to the consumer before the contract is concluded.
Can I provide services during the cancellation period?
You must not provide any services to the consumer during the cancellation period unless the consumer specifically requests this. For off-premises contracts, you must get the consumer’s request in writing or by email.
The consumer may still cancel the services during the cancellation period unless the services have been fully performed.
If the consumer cancels the services during the cancellation period, he will not have to pay you unless you notified him in advance that he would have to pay for services received up to the point of cancellation.
What if I don’t notify the consumer of the right to cancel?
If you do not provide the consumer with information about the right to cancel (in writing or by email) the cancellation period will continue until you do tell them, up to a maximum of one year after the usual cancellation period.
How can the consumer cancel?
The consumer can cancel by making any “clear statement”; for example, in writing, by email or by telephone.
In addition, you must provide a cancellation form in the exact format specified by the regulations (although the consumer isn’t required to use it).
The above is only intended to be a brief introduction to the cancellation rules. You should take specific advice in respect of the goods or services you sell. If you haven’t updated your terms and conditions for some time, please contact BHW Solicitors and we can work with you to ensure they are up-to-date, relevant and meet the latest regulations.
Matt Worsnop is an Associate Solicitor at BHW Solicitors in Leicester and writes regularly on commercial law matters. Matt can be contacted on 0116 281 6235 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.