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Rules for Selling Online, over the Phone or from a Distance

Setting up a web based business can seem like a cheap and easy way of making some money without the overheads of physical commercial premises. But like a shop you have to allow customers to return items if they don’t want them. This may seem obvious but did you know that there are specific regulations that apply when buying and selling online?

Consumer Contracts Regulations, which update and amend the former Distance Selling Regulations, mean that customers have the right to cancel any item or service they have ordered from a website, over the phone, via TV shopping channel, or in any circumstance where the physical item wasn’t available at time the of purchase.

The right to cancel starts from the moment a customer places the order and doesn’t end until seven working days from after they receive the goods. As this seven-day working period is the time customers have to decide whether to cancel, by law you can’t ask for the goods to be returned in this period.

If an item is returned, you as a seller have to refund any monies already paid, including outbound postage costs. It is up to you to decide your policy on covering return postage or not. However there are some goods that can’t be returned:


• CDs, DVDs or software if the seal has been broken on the wrapping
• Perishable and other items that deteriorate rapidly such as food and flowers
• Tailor made or personalised goods
• Underwear and earrings.

So before you start selling from your new website ensure that you have outlined the following:

• A description of the goods or services
• The price of the goods or services
• Delivery and any cancellation rights (as per Consumer Contracts Regulations)
• And information about you, the seller.

This information is usually defined in terms and conditions but it’s important to have these clearly available to customers to ensure you comply with the Consumer Contracts Regulations. It is a criminal offence, punishable by up to a £5,000 fine if you fail to information customers of their right to cancel off-premises purchases. Now that wouldn’t be such a cheap and easy way of making money would it?

Slater and Gordon’s Internet Lawyers offer expert legal advice and immediate legal representation is available anywhere in the UK. Call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9052 or contact us online and we will call you.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have more than 1,450 staff and 18 offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Derby, Merseyside, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Halifax, Newcastle, Wakefield and meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire and in Hull, Yorkshire.

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