If your business is selling, or planning to sell, to the public via distance selling (through the internet, digital television, catalogue sales, telephone or fax), you should be aware of the rules governing how your sales can be made. (These are set down in the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations.)
In addition to the rules mentioned in our guide to selling goods to consumer and our guide to supplying services to consumers, we’ve outlined here the key additional factors with which you must comply if you’re selling goods remotely.
You must give consumers ‘prior information’ on your website
If you’re selling from a website or via an internet-hosted page, this source must clearly state:
• Your trading postal address (a PO box won’t be acceptable here)
• A properly detailed description of the goods or services
• The price of the goods or services (including VAT, if applicable)
• Delivery fees (if applicable)
• How the consumer should pay (e.g. by card, PayPal, cheque, etc.)
• When the goods or services will be delivered (if applicable)
• Details on cancellation (This should include a link to an online cancellation form, or a statement advising that the consumer can also cancel in writing, along with contact details for doing so, as well as the timeframe for cancelling, i.e. the cooling-off period)
• A statement that the consumer is responsible for the arrangement and cost of returning the goods (if applicable)
• How long the contract is for, including how long the price will be valid (if applicable)
• For digital goods only, you must advise about the functionality of the product; for example, how the consumer can download, access and use the digital files
This information should then be repeated on the consumer’s contract confirmation, which should be provided to them in writing once the contract has been agreed.
The buying process should be clear to consumers
If you have an online shop, consumers must be clear how to buy the goods or services offered, and at what point they have confirmed and made the purchase and triggered the obligation on you to fulfil it.
For most online sales, the point at which the consumer confirms their desire to buy is where the consumer finishes inputting any identification and delivery information, payment details have been provided and the button ‘confirm order’ (or its equivalent) option is clicked. The consumer should then receive a confirmation stating that the order has been received and is being processed. If all the identity and payment details are confirmed as acceptable, the seller should then confirm that the consumer’s order is accepted and will be fulfilled.
Customer service phone lines must be reasonably priced
If a consumer needs to phone a trader to complain or cancel their purchase, for example, they must be able to do so without unnecessary expense.
Under UK law, a trader’s phone lines mustn’t charge more than the basic rate for incoming calls – i.e. you must allow customer to phone you on a regular phone number rather than a premium-rate number. According to government’s guidance, ‘This telephone number provided should not provide the trader with a contribution to their costs.’
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