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Are You Still Falling Foul of Changes to Laws on e-Commerce and Mail Order Sales?

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Any business which sells products or services to consumers on-line, by telephone or via mail order must be implementing new changes to laws on distance selling to avoid the risk of fines up to £5,000.

The Consumer Contracts Regulations, which came into effect on 13 June 2014, complete the implementation of the Consumer Rights Directive in the UK and mark a major stage towards the harmonisation of EU consumer contract law. Our experience is that many businesses have yet to change their procedures to comply with the Regulations.

Subject to very limited exceptions, such as contracts for digital content, tickets for events and package travel, the Regulations introduce changes which mean that traders must:

  • Notify consumers of an increased statutory cancellation period of 14 days;
  • Supply a model cancellation form when the consumer has a right to cancel;
  • Provide enhanced pre-contract information to the consumer;
  • Deliver purchased goods within 30 days;
  • Seek the express consent of the consumer before taking any additional payments; and
  • Avoid the use of premium rate telephone numbers for consumers to call with regard to an existing order.

So far as businesses are concerned the Regulations also:

  • Require a consumer to return goods within 14 days of cancelling a contract;
  • Permit a trader to withhold a refund until goods are returned; and
  • Permit a trader to deduct an amount for ant diminished value of goods when refunding payments.

If you have not recently reviewed your business' terms of conditions to take account of the new Regulations urgent amendments will undoubtedly be required, in particular with regard to the notifying of cancellation rights. Further the need for a local rate helpline/contact number may require changes to be made to other business operations.

A business that fails to notify consumers of cancellation rights is committing an offence under the Regulations and liable to a fine as well as having its terms of business rendered unenforceable.

We are currently advising a number of businesses in various sectors about the changes that need to be made to their terms and conditions. If you would like us to discuss what you need to ensure your business is compliant, please contact Deborah Niven on 0114 2521401 or email her at deborahniven@hlwkeeblehawson.co.uk.

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