The Law Shop is now closed. Please click here to find out more.

Consumer Contracts Changes – Know Your Rights!

Rubel Bashir - DAS Law

  1. 02 July 2014
  2. Consumers
  3. 0 comments
Shopping bags

This post explains your legal rights which have been affected (for the better) by the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 which came into effect on the 13th June 2014.

The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 and the Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of work etc Regulations 2008 will not apply to any contracts entered on or after the 13th June 2014.

Why should you know about these Regulations?

By having knowledge of your rights you can ensure that you are never short changed and you are in a strong position to fight your corner against the hardnosed trader who is unsympathetic to the problems you are encountering.

The Regulations impose duties on a trader to give you information about the products you are buying, cancellations rights and prevents traders charging you premium rates for telephone calls. There are additional requirements for “digital content” such as music or video downloads, although it has not been covered in this note.

Will the Regulations apply to you?

These Regulations will generally apply to all contracts which:

  1. have been entered on or after the 13th June 2014
  2. between a consumer and trader and
  3. are not excluded.

Am I a consumer?

You will usually be considered as acting as a consumer where you buy goods or services for purposes which are wholly or mainly outside that of your trade, business, craft or profession.

So you may buy a laptop and use it play games, browse the internet to read Law on the Web and send the occasional work email and still be considered as a consumer.

Who is a trader?

A trader is defined as: “A person acting for purposes relating to that person’s trade, business, craft or profession, whether acting personally or through another person acting in the trader’s name or on the trader’s behalf”(Regulation 4, Consumer Contracts Regulations).

Which contracts are excluded?

Before marching down to your high street shop or ringing customer services to demand your rights you may want to check that your contract is not one of those that are excluded under these Regulations. A full list of exclusions can be found in Regulation 6 and some have been listed below:

  • purchases from vending machines, package travel contracts
  • residential letting /accommodation contracts, gambling as covered by the Gambling Act 2005
  • supply of consumables by regular roundsmen such as milkmen
  • construction and sale of immovable property including building of new properties
  • timeshare contracts
  • single telecom connections (e.g. payphones and café internet connection)
  • financial services are generally exempt although warranties, credit agreements and insurance will need to meet certain requirements

Contracts which are only partly covered

Some contracts also not excluded are only partially covered and these include:

  • passenger transport contracts are exempt from cancellation rights and from most of the information requirements.
  • Low value off-premises contracts (value less than £42) are exempt from the information and cancellation provisions of the regulations but subject to those on additional payments and charges and delivery and risk.
  • Items dispensed on prescription are exempt from the information and cancellation provisions of the regulations.

What are my rights if the regulations apply?

In order to establish your rights it is key to establish which sort of contact you have entered. There are generally 3 types of contacts:

Distance contracts

This is where the consumer and trader were not both present when the contract was entered. Typical examples of a distant contract would be items purchased online or via the telephone.

Off premises contracts

This will be were a contract is concluded in a place which is not the traders business premises. For example where you enter a contract in your home or work place.

On premises contracts

This will be a contract which is neither of the above. These will include in-store purchases.

Information Requirements

The trader is now obliged to provide certain specified information before you enter into the contract with them.

The information to be provided for on premises contract (in-store) is set out in Schedule 1 of the Regulations.

For off premises or distant contracts the information requirements are set out in Schedule 2 to the Regulations. These include:

  • Main characteristics of the goods, services or digital content.
  • The identity of the trader + address and contact details of the trader
  • The total price payable including any taxes, delivery charges or additional costs
  • If a right to cancel exists the consumer must be given a cancellation form.

What happens if a trader does not comply with these requirements?

This will depend on the type of contract that you have entered and what information was not given. For example if you have entered into an off-premises or distant contract and the trader failed to provide you with information about additional delivery charges you will not be liable for the additional costs of this (Regulation 10(4) and Regulation 13 (5)).

(Please note that some contracts are excluded from information requirements - these have not been listed for brevity purposes).

Cancellation Rights

Your rights to cancel will depend on how you purchased the goods, why you want to return and how soon you decide to return the item.

Faulty goods

If the product you have purchased is faulty or not as described then you will generally have a legal remedy under the Sales of Goods Act 1979. The remedy may depend on when you purchased an item and you may get additional protection depending on your method of payment.  This article will only deal with the 2013 Regulations – you can learn more in our Faulty Goods section.

I’ve changed my mind – can I return the goods?

We are all prone to an impulsive or dithering purchase every now and then, but can we return the item if we later change our mind?

NO – In store transactions (on premises contract)

If you purchased an item in-store you will have no automatic right to cancel under the Regulations unless the item is faulty or not as described.

Law on the Web handy tip: Check the terms of the contract

Many shops will operate a returns policy. This may allow you to return goods in unused condition within a set number of days (check terms and condition of return). They may offer you a return/exchange or refund for the goods. This may form part of the contract.

YES – Off premises and distant contracts

A “cooling off period” will apply to goods brought online, over the phone or purchased at your home (subject to exceptions). You now have 14 days to change your mind (increased from 7 days) and you will not need to give any reason for doing so.

The trader has an obligation to inform you of this right as discussed above in the information requirement and also provide you with a cancellation form.

Where the consumer cancels a contract, any ancillary contract (such as a warranty or credit agreement) is automatically cancelled.

Exceptions – Full list can be found at Part 3 Regulation 28

Some contracts are excluded from this cancellation right and include:

  • Goods made to specification, Carrying out urgent repairs and maintenance
  • Supply of newspapers and magazines etc, Goods purchased at a public auction
  • Providing the service before the period expires (with consumers consent).

Who must return the item and when?

You should return the goods within 14 days from when you cancelled. The consumer will be liable to return the item at their own cost unless it is otherwise agreed with the trader. It is strongly recommended that you keep evidence of your return.

What will I get back and when?

The trader should reimburse you all payments made including delivery costs unless you have chosen express delivery service. If you have chosen express delivery you should be reimbursed the difference in cost of the express delivery and normal delivery.

Payment should be made via the same method as you originally paid without undue delay, and no longer than 14 days after the trader received your returned goods back or evidence of return.

Please note that the trader may recover an amount from you if the value of the goods have diminished as a result of handling/ wear and tear.

Law on the Web handy tip: Consider shopping online

If you have seen an item that you like but have not quite made up your mind to purchase you may want to consider purchasing the item from the online website if available. This will ensure that you have a 14 day cooling off period in which you can change your mind (subject to exceptions).

What happens if the trader has not provided me with my cancellation rights?

The cancellation period may be extended by up to 12 months if the trader has failed to provide you with your cancellation rights. If the trader provides you with your cancellation rights within 12 months you will have 14 days to cancel from when the notice is served.

Also if a trader has entered into an off premises contract (e.g. at your home) and fails to give notice of your right to cancel, the trader will be guilty of an offence, liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 (£5,000) on the standard scale.

Premium rate telephone calls (0870, 0845...)

We have all been on the end of the line where we are waiting on hold to get through to speak to a helpline whilst being charged premium rate numbers. Fortunately, these Regulations mean that consumers cannot be charged more than the basic rate to call customer services in relation to existing contracts.

Law on the Web handy tip
You may find that may traders are not aware of these Regulations or have failed to make the necessary changes. If you find that you have incurred charges you should contact the trader and ask for reimbursement.

Delivery of your goods and risk

Unless it is agreed otherwise the trader must deliver the goods to you without undue delay and in any event no more than 30 days after the contract was entered. Failure to do this will mean that you can bring the contract to an end.

Risk passes from the trader to the consumer when the goods are delivered to the consumer. Any damage/loss caused before delivery will be the responsibility of the trader.

This will not be the case when the consumer arranges their own delivery – this would mean that risk passes when the item is delivered to the consumer’s courier.

Additional payments – pre-ticked boxes?

Have you ever come to check out on your online shopping basket and come to find that the total is more than you expected?

This is usually caused by default pre ticked boxes on websites, usually for a magazine, mug or another small item. Consumer watchdogs have found this to be the norm with some companies. Traders will now need the active consent of the consumer for all payments – pre-ticked boxes for additional payments, for instance, will no longer be permitted.

Advice for consumers

If you feel that the trader has not complied with these requirements you should firstly contact the trader and advise them of the same. You may wish to do this in writing.

If you have no joy via this method, you may want to consider taking legal action, depending on what your losses are. Before you do this you should weigh up the benefits and disadvantages of doing this and seek legal advice.

You should also consider reporting the breaches to the enforcement authority to investigate and take action. 

Advice for traders

Traders are recommended to review their policies and procedures to ensure that they comply with these regulations.

You should familiarise yourself with the exceptions to see if the goods and services you provide are exempt. You should ensure that the pre contract information is being provided to consumers and that you are not providing a premium rate number to call if they have an issue.

You should consider getting your terms and conditions reviewed and getting professional assistance with this.

Please note that this is a brief overview of only some of the changes brought about by the Regulations and is intended for general information purposes.

To discuss your rights and these regulations further, you may benefit from speaking to a lawyer through our Instant Law Advice line service.

Share your experiences

Please note: The views expressed in community areas of this site do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Law on the Web, its owners, its staff or contributors. All comments are moderated prior to publication.

comments powered by Disqus