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New Consumer Contracts Regulations

Does your business sell goods, services or digital content to consumers? If it does, then any contracts that you make with consumers on or after 13 June 2014 must comply with a new set of regulations called The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations. These replace the existing Distance Selling Regulations and Doorstep Selling Regulations from that date.

Some of the key changes in the new Regulations are:-

(a) The “cooling off period” or the right for consumers to change their minds has been extended to 14 calendar days, where a consumer buys online, or over the telephone – this is a ‘distance contract’ when the consumer and trader are not physically together – or ‘off- premises’ where both the trader and consumer are together, but away from the trader’s business premises – for example, at the consumer’s home.

(b) The trader must give the consumer a model cancellation form, along with clear information about the goods or services before the contract is entered into. Failure to provide information in a durable medium (by letter, CD/DVD, email, text or personal account) before the contract is made, will extend the “cooling off period” to one year.

(c) Any goods must be delivered to the consumer without undue delay and within 30 calendar days, unless otherwise agreed.

(d) Traders must have the active consent of a consumer for all payments. Pre-ticked boxes for additional payments are no longer permitted.

(e) Consumers are not liable for costs which they have not been told about before a contract is made.

(f) Any telephone line offered to a consumer for making contact with the trader about something they have bought must be available at no more than basic rate. Premium rate telephone lines are prohibited.

Some contracts are exempt from the new Regulations and some are only partly covered. A consumer’s cancellation rights do not apply to bespoke and customised goods, urgent household repairs, amongst other exempted arrangements.

Those who breach these Regulations can be liable to a fine of up to £5,000. If you sell goods, services or digital content to consumers, you should look at your terms and make sure that they comply with these new Regulations as from 13 June 2014.

The Consumer Rights Bill is the most extensive consumer law reform in the UK in decades. This Bill is progressing through Parliament now. It is not yet known if it will be completed in this Parliamentary session. When the Bill becomes an Act it will repeal and replace the new Regulations. The watch word is to keep a close eye on this changing area of law.

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