I am selling products over long distance. What legislation do I need to be aware of?

Distance Selling

If we wish to sell products via distance, for example through a call centre, in a catalogue or over the internet you will need to be aware of specific legislation protecting your customers interests and consequently imposing restrictions on your business. Most importantly you will need to be aware of the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000.

Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations  

The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations came into force on 31 October 2000 and provide protection to all consumers when purchasing products over long distance. This applies to products purchased through call centres, over the internet and by mail order.

As these transactions are not done face to face instead through a variety of mediums, for example telephone and email there must be additional protection for the consumers who enter into these transactions.

Distance Contract

What is meant by a Distance Contract?

A distance contract is a contract which is made up of the following criteria:

  • One that is for the sale of goods or the provision of services

  • One that is formed between a supplier and a consumer – this means that business to business contracts are not subject to the legislation

  • One that is formed under an organised distance sales or service provision scheme run by the supplier – this means that contracts formed though a call centre or over a website are covered by the Regulations but this does not extend to one off promotions or offers through email

  • One which is formed by communications between the supplier and the consumer whereby they do not come face to face with each other

The Regulations thus apply to the following transactions:

  • Leaflets dropped in people’s letter boxes
  • Catalogues
  • Press advertising with order forms
  • In catalogues
  • Telephone
  • Email
  • Fax
  • Television

What obligations will I have under the Regulations?

Each and every business operating a distance contract will have to abide by the following conditions:

  • Information must be provided to the consumer prior to the contract being concluded
  • Confirmation in writing must be given to consumers concerning the prior information above but also additional information specifically concerning their cancellation rights. In this context the confirmation in writing can alternatively be given in another durable medium which is available and accessible to the consumer. Emailing the details directly to the customer falls within this category but simply providing the details on the website does not.
  • There must be certain cancellation rights available to the consumer
  • The contract must be performed within a minimum time period

Prior Information

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For more information on:

  • My company is planning to cold call, is there anything else I should be aware of?
  • Secondary Information
  • Cancellation
  • Right to cancel
  • Refund
  • Substitute Goods
  • Return of goods
  • Performance of the Contract