The Consumer Contracts Regulations apply to contracts concluded on or after 13th June 2014 and replace the Distance Selling Regulations 2000 and Off-Premises Regulations 2008.
These new regulations apply to all purchases made at a distance which includes shopping online, by mail order, over the phone or through a TV shopping channel. One of the changes that was introduced in the new regulations concerns the customer’s right to cancel. Any online order for a product or service can now be cancelled without charge within 14 days of the order date (this was previously 7 days). Cancellation can be triggered simply because the customer has changed their mind, in fact they don’t have to give a reason for cancelling. Suppliers must make sure that this cancellation right is brought to the attention of their customers as failure to do so could result in a fine of up to £5,000. Suppliers can withhold any refund due until the goods are returned and can reduce the amount of money refunded if the customer has reduced the value of the item, e.g. if shoes have been worn outside which has scuffed the soles. Suppliers can only apply such reduction if this is covered in their terms and conditions. Where the customer cancels a contract, any ancillary contract (such as a warranty or credit agreement) is automatically cancelled too.
The 14 day cancellation period starts the day after the goods have been received or, in the case of service contracts, the day the contract was entered into. Where different goods within an order are delivered at different times the cancellation period will run from the day after delivery of the last item. If the customer has entered into a service contract and requests that the services start within the 14 day cancellation period the supplier should gain the customer’s explicit consent and advise them that if they later cancel they will need to pay for any services delivered until the cancellation date.
The customer must return any cancelled goods within 14 days and the trader must refund the consumer within 14 days of receiving the goods back or receiving proof of the return of the goods if that is earlier. The refund should include the cost of outbound delivery (provided the standard delivery option was used), but not the cost of the return delivery to the trader unless the trader agreed to pay this or did not tell the customer that they would have to. In the case of refund under a services contract any refund should be paid within 14 days of cancellation of the contract.
This automatic 14-day ‘cooling-off period’ only applies to goods you are buying when you haven’t seen them in person, but there are a few exceptions including products that are bespoke or made to measure which includes personalised items. It also includes goods that deteriorate quickly – like flowers or food, or anything from a private individual rather than a business, or a CD, DVD or software, if you break the seal on the wrapping.
The burden of proof for showing cancellation within the cancellation period rests with the consumer.
Where goods received are faulty or not fit for purpose or not as described, consumers have different rights which are covered by separate legislation.