Effective earlier this year, the UK Consumer Contract Regulations came into force, replacing the prior law on distance selling. Ecommerce businesses selling to UK customers will now need to review and update their sales process, terms and conditions of sales and refund policies to comply with the new regulations.

The Regulations were designed to implement the specific provisions of the EU Consumer Rights Directive (Directive 2011. /83/EU). The directive applies to all consumer contracts for goods and services, including, most notably, online sales. The new regulations set out the information that must be provided to customers before the goods or services are purchased:

  1. A specific description of the goods or services and the length of time any commitment on the part of the customer will last.
  2. The total price of the goods or services, or the way the price will be calculated.
  3. The cost of delivery and if the customer returns items, who will be responsible for the price of any return shipment.
  4. Order cancellation details. According to the new rules, the customer has no less than 14 days following receipt of the goods in which to cancel; this is an increase from prior law, which mandated only 7 days. There are exceptions to the 14 day right to cancel, including CDs, DVDs, or software if the wrapping seal is broken, the goods are perishable, tailor-made or personalized.
  5. Information about the seller of the goods or services must be provided, including geographical location address and telephone number.
  6. If the product is digital content, then the seller must provide information on the compatibility of the content with hardware and other software.

Sellers will no longer be able to charge a customer for an item that is selected for the customer as a pre-ticked box. Instead, the customer must actively tick the box. Finally, premium rate telephone numbers for helplines or other customer contacts during the sales and return periods are no longer permitted.

The bottom line is that e-commerce companies selling to UK customers should review and revise, if necessary, the terms and conditions of sale to ensure compliance with the new regulations. Failure to comply may result in contracts being unenforceable, and criminal penalties may be imposed. Please let us know if you need any assistance or would like to discuss these new regulations to ensure your compliance.

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