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Changes to Consumer Law – June 2014

What’s changing?

From 13th June 2014, The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 come into force – changing the rules which govern distance (online, phone) selling and doorstep selling. The new regulations affect any business which sells to a consumer on or after this date. These new rules will replace the previous regulations.

Below is an overview of the main changes which could affect your business;

New information requirements – more information must now be provided to consumers prior to a purchase, and the specific information is dependent on their method of purchase (in-store, phone, online, doorstep ).

For in-store purchases, consumers must have access to your complaints handling policy and any details of aftercare or guarantees. If consumers have the right to cancel, they must be provided with a cancellation form.

For online sales, you must identify if you are acting on behalf of another trader and provide their contact details, as well as your own. You must also make it clear that the order implies an obligation to pay you a sum of money – the purchase process must ask consumers to explicitly acknowledge this.

Digital content provision – when providing consumers with paid for or free digital content, you must provide them with information regarding the functionality of the content and the software/hardware requirements. Digital content can’t be provided to the consumer during the cooling off period, unless they explicitly acknowledge and consent to waive their cancellation right.

Cancellation rights – the cooling off period for consumers who have purchased goods, services or digital content has been extended to 14 calendar days. The cooling off period for goods starts when the consumer receives the goods; for digital content and services it starts from the day on which the contract was entered into. If the consumer explicitly requests that the service provision starts before the end of the cooling off period, they waive their cancellation rights.

Refund obligations – where a consumer exercises their statutory right to a refund, they must receive both the full price paid and the cost of standard delivery charges (even if they have chosen a more expensive delivery method). Refunds must be made within 14 days of receipt of the unwanted goods, or receipt of evidence that they have sent the goods back. For services or digital content, refunds must be made within 14 days of notice that the consumer wants to cancel.

Inertia selling – consumers are protected from unsolicited sales or additional charges, which have not been agreed in advance. In such cases, the consumer is not required to pay for products and service charges to which they did not agree.

Helpline charges – where a helpline is provided for consumers, the calls must only be charged at a basic rate.

Why is it changing?

The changes have been introduced to give further protection to consumers, particularly those that may be pressured into doorstep purchases, and this forms part of a wider overhaul of UK consumer law. These changes also look to bring UK law in line with the rest of the EU.

What to do now?

It’s important to act now to ensure you will comply with the new rules after the 13th June. You should review your sales processes and contract terms, as well as your refund policy to ensure all are compliant.

For more information on how the regulations will affect your business, or assistance with reviewing terms and procedures please contact Tom Stendall or Natalie Bunce.

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