Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 (Summary)
Information for businesses on
selling goods or services to consumers by mail order, on the
internet, by telephone, fax or by digital television
New regulations for business to consumer distance selling
If you sell goods or services to
- on the internet or digital television
- by mail order, including
- by phone
- by fax
the Consumer Protection (Distance
Selling) Regulations 2000 may apply to your business.
Key features of the regulations:
- the consumer must be given clear
information about the goods or services offered
- after making a purchase the
consumer must be sent confirmation
- consumer has a cooling-off
period of 7 working days
- new powers for local Trading
Standards Departments and the OFT
The Consumer Protection (Distance
Selling) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000 No. 2334), transpose into UK law
Directive 97/7/EC on the protection of consumers in respect of
distance contracts. The scope of the Regulations is very broad. They
cover both goods and services, where the contract is made without
any face to face contact between supplier and consumer.
Many businesses already use terms
and conditions that meet these regulations, but all need to check
that they do comply.
The purpose of the Directive is to
increase consumer confidence and so strengthen the single European
market by providing an agreed minimum level of consumer protection
throughout the EC. The aim of the cooling-off period is to give
consumers an opportunity to examine the goods or services being
offered, as they would have when buying in a shop.
The right to cancel is fundamental,
however this is balanced in the Regulations by the consumer's
responsibility to take care of the goods before returning them. The
Directive does not apply to business to business transactions.
The seller must provide clear and
comprehensible information to enable the consumer to decide whether
to buy. This must include:
- the seller's name and, if
payment is required in advance, his/her postal address
- a description of the goods or
- the price including all taxes
- delivery costs where they apply
- arrangements for payment
- arrangements and date for
- the right to cancel the order
- how long the offer or the price
If a business uses cold calling by
telephone to sell to consumers, the caller must clearly identify the
business (s)he represents and the commercial purpose of the call at
the beginning of the conversation.
Written confirmation When an order
has been made the seller must send to the consumer confirmation of
the prior information in writing or another durable medium, such as
fax or e-mail, unless it has already been provided in writing, eg.
in a catalogue or advertisement. This should include information on
when and how the consumer can exercise the right to cancel, a postal
address where (s)he can contact you and details of any after-sales
services and guarantees. The seller must provide this confirmation
at the latest by the time that the goods are delivered or, in the
case of services, before or in good time during the performance of
If you are providing a service with
no specified end date or for a period of more than one year, for
example a mobile phone, satellite or cable television or gas and
electricity supply, you must also send details about when and how
the consumer can terminate the contract.
A distance contract is defined in
the Regulations as "any contract concerning goods or services
concluded between a supplier and a consumer under an organised
distance sales or service-provision scheme run by the supplier who,
for the purpose of the contract, makes exclusive use of one or more
means of distance communication up to and including the moment at
which the contract is concluded".
An organised distance sales or
service provision scheme
The Directive applies only to
contracts concluded in the context of organised distance sales or
service-provision schemes, so it is probable that the Regulations
do not apply if a business:
a) does not normally sell to
consumers in response to letters, phone calls, faxes or e-mails
b) does not operate an
interactive shopping web site
If, for example, you do not
usually supply consumers by distance means, but you agree to do so
in response to a one-off request, you do not need to comply with
the Regulations. However, if your business regularly handles
"one-off" requests and is organised so that it can deal
with such requests (ie. there is for example a mail order
facility), you do need to ensure that you fulfil the Regulations.
Exclusive use of one or more
means of distance communications
This means that there has been no
face to face contact with a representative of your business or
someone acting indirectly on your behalf, such as in a showroom or
a door to door salesman, up to and including the moment when the
consumer confirms his/her order to buy the goods or service
offered. More than one means of distance communication may be
used. For example, a television or newspaper advertisement could
give a website address or telephone number that enables the
consumer to place an order.
A list of examples of means of
distance communication relevant to these Regulations is given at
Schedule 1 to the Regulations. These include mail, telephone,
e-mail, fax, printed advertising, radio and television.
This is a summary of the
Regulations and you should not rely on it for an authoritative
statement of your legal position.
Official Text: The official text of the
Regulations is available on the HMSO website at: www.hmso.gov.uk/si/si2000/20002334.htm
Guide for Business: The
DTI has also published a
more detailed Guide for Business
which is available online or as a printed booklet.
Please click the 'Order Now' button
to request a printed version.
DTI's Distance Selling page.