Legal: Consumer Rights - Online and Distance Selling

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Health Assured team

18 March 2024

Online distance selling is regulated under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013. The legislation ensures that online traders comply with statutory requirements.

This is also supported by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which stipulates that the goods are fit for purpose, as described and of satisfactory quality.

The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 covers online purchases with regards to the items being described online including pictures to help you make the decision before purchase.

Online orders give you the right to cancel your order for up to 14 days from the time you receive your item. This time period is also known as the ‘cooling off period’. The retailer must be informed of your intention to cancel the order whether this be via telephone or email, however, email provides more protection as you have written proof that you request to return the item (s).

The 14-day cancellation period starts the day the goods are in your possession (or when the last item in the order is in the consumer's possession in the case of multiple goods). Weekends and public holidays are included in the 14 days. However, the cancellation period expires at the end of the following working day if the end of the 14 days falls on one of those days.

The trader must inform you of the cancellation policy covering up to 14 days after their order is delivered.  You do not need to give a reason for cancelling during this period.

If you are not informed of your cancellation rights, the cancellation period extends up to 12 months. If you are informed by the trader about the right to cancel during these 12 months, you will have 14 days to cancel from when you were told.

Before making an online purchase, please consider the below steps:

  1. Is the payment method clear and does it include delivery options and costs?
  2. Are the steps clear for you to make an order?
  3. Can you correct or return to the previous page?
  4. Are there different languages available?
  5. Can you download or receive the terms and conditions by email?
  6. Are the VAT charges clear at the point of purchase?
  7. Are the phone line charges clear?
  8. Are the goods described clearly with pictures?
  9. Is the total price clear with delivery costs added and how they will charge?
  10. Check the minimum length of the contract (if applicable) and is it clear?
  11. Check if the terms and conditions for ending the contract are clear.
  12. Sale confirmation with an email including delivery dates.

There are extra rules for selling digital services which customers download or stream online, including:

  • computer games
  • in-game purchases
  • TV and film
  • books
  • computer programs
  • mobile phone apps

The online streaming service must make you aware that you will lose your 14-day right to cancel. The streaming provider must establish an agreement to an instant download before the download is started and provide pre-contract information. Your right to cancel within 14 days will remain if the online streaming service fails to comply.

Always check whether the online trader has a business address to establish whether you are buying from a trader in another country. Also, check whether exercise duty is included in the purchase. If you are purchasing from an online international website, always check if they have a registered UK address and a returns policy. If exercise duties are not included, you may have to pay the carrier directly.  Your statutory rights will be difficult to enforce.


How can an EAP help your employees with legal right issues?

With a Health Assured Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), we can offer you legal advice and support.

Our EAP service also provides guidance and supports your employees with their mental health in the workplace and at home. We can help you create a safe, productive workspace that supports all.

We support your employees' mental wellbeing with any problems they might be facing in their professional or personal lives with our 24-hour counselling helpline.


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