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Retailers must comply with new legal rules

Retailers selling to consumers, including those selling digital content, must comply with new regulations governing sales from 13 June 2014.

Almost all retailers will be affected by the new Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 and should start work to review their buying procedures, literature and websites, and train their staff accordingly, as soon as possible.

The new rules include:

• Giving clearer and more prominent information to consumers before and after sales. These rules apply not just to distance sales (such as internet, phone and catalogue) and sales made in the consumer’s home (off-premises sales), but also to ‘non-day to day’ sales on the retailer’s premises (on-premises sales) – for example car or large furniture sales.
• Making a model cancellation form available for distance and doorstep sales.
• Providing a longer cancellation period (14 days) for distance and doorstep sales, except for digital downloads. The new rules say retailers can provide that digital downloads cannot be cancelled once they have started, but must make this clear to the consumer – and the consumer must explicitly agree to this.
• If the sale is of digital content, giving additional information about, for example, its functionality and compatibility.
• Requiring refunds to be provided within 14 days of receipt of cancelled goods – although retailers can now deduct damages for wear and tear where the goods have been used.
• Making it clear when clicking a button incurs a charge – a new and significant requirement.
• Banning practices such as pre-ticked boxes for chargeable services on order forms and using premium rate customer telephone helplines.

Failure to comply can result in prosecution. If information is not provided, a consumer can sometimes cancel the contract even if goods or services have already been supplied.

Recommendation

Retailers should start work now on appropriate changes to their buying procedures, forms and website, and train staff accordingly ready for the new rules on 13 June.

Alex Cook is a Director at Helix. Alex initially trained academically as an unregistered barrister and was a Partner and Head of Civil Litigation at a large firm based in the South East before joining Helix Law. As well as focussing on expanding Helix, Alex specialises in commercial and property related litigation and he has acted for a broad range of clients including offshore property investment funds, small businesses and individual property owners.

This article is written to raise awareness of the issues it discusses and it may not be updated after it is first written, even if the law changes. It is not intended to be legal advice and cannot be relied on as such. Helix Law is not responsible or liable for any action taken or not taken as a result of  this article. If you think the matters set out affect you and you wish to apply them to your particular circumstances then we are happy to give you free initial telephone advice. 

Contact Helix Law on 01273 761 990 or email: [email protected]