Fair Trading

The advice sheets below have the latest information on fair trading. If you need more advice call 01753 475111 (Enforcement & Regulatory option).

Consumer contracts: off-premises sales

In the guide

This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 apply to contracts made both on and away from business premises, as well as contracts made 'at a distance'; there are also rules for businesses providing digital content. These Regulations affect most businesses that contract with consumers, irrespective of where and how the contract is entered into. They do not apply to contracts where traders buy goods or services from consumers, nor do they apply to contracts between consumers.

The Regulations require detailed information to be given to consumers and give them a 14-day cancellation period. In addition, the Regulations prohibit the use of premium-rate telephone helplines (for customers contacting you in connection with a contract that they have with you) and the use of so-called negative options to sell additional products to consumers that are incidental to the main contract. The Regulations also deal with the time that you take to deliver goods and who takes the risk when goods are being delivered to a consumer.

What do the Regulations cover?

Most contracts made and negotiated between traders and consumers are covered, and the Regulations split these contracts into three types:

  • off-premises contracts. There are four types of these contracts:
    1. A contract made where a consumer and trader are together and agree the contract in a place that is not the trader's business premises - for example, in a consumer's home or place of work
    2. A contract made where a consumer and trader are together and an offer is made by the consumer in a place that is not the trader's business premises - for example, where a consumer signs an order form during a visit to his home and the trader agrees the contract later
    3. A contract that is agreed on a trader's business premises or through any means of distance communication immediately after a meeting with a consumer in a place that is not the trader's business premises. For example, a salesperson meets a consumer in the high street and convinces him of the benefits of buying a water filter; the consumer is then taken to the local office of the trader to sign the contract for the equipment. An example of this scenario using distance communication would be if the salesperson in the high street meets the consumer and immediately enters into a contract with him using a tablet computer
    4. A contract made with the consumer during an excursion organised by the trader with the aim of selling or promoting their goods or services to the consumer. The Regulations do not define an 'excursion'; however, it is possible that this will cover a situation where a trader meets a consumer on holiday and invites him to travel with the trader to a different venue to be sold goods or services
  • distance contracts. A contract made between a trader and a consumer where they are not together, which is negotiated and agreed by one or more organised means of distance communication - for example, by phone, post or over the internet. There must be an organised distance scheme for selling goods and/or services so the Regulations are unlikely to affect a business that sells a product at a distance as a one-off. For instance, a knitting wool shop that does not normally sell at a distance would not fall within the definition of a distance contract when a customer rings to ask for a ball of wool to be posted to him because he is unable to call into the shop - this is unlikely to be classed as an 'organised' distance selling scheme
  • on-premises contracts. The Regulations define an 'on-premises contract' as: 'a contract which is neither off-premises nor a distance contract', which effectively means a contract made on business premises, whatever they may be

Traders who visit a consumer in his home and leave a quotation (or send one to them later), allowing him to decide and enter into a contract when he is ready to do so, will be entering into an 'on-premises contract'. This is because this transaction does not fall within the definition of an 'off-premises contract' unless the consumer agrees to the contract immediately after the trader has left their home, nor is it a 'distance contract'. This is important for many home improvements businesses that work in this way and will, therefore, fall under the requirements for on-premises contracts. This means that businesses selling in these circumstances only have to provide the information listed in the guide for on-premises contracts (rather than the larger list for off-premises contracts) and do not have to give cancellation rights. However, if your business uses this approach you must remember that you will be entering into off-premises contracts in those situations when you do agree a contract at the time that you visit your customer and agree a contract there and then.

'Business premises' includes a trader's permanent premises as well as temporary premises (such as a market stall) where they usually operate. This is a key definition with regard to the above contract types but it is not defined clearly by the Regulations.

This downloadable scenarios document will help you decide where contracts are made.

This guide covers the requirements of the Regulations when you sell goods, services or digital content away from your business premises. If you also sell on your business premises or through distance contracts please see our other two guides:

  • 'Consumer contracts - on-premises sales'
  • 'Consumer contracts - distance sales'

What do the Regulations not cover?

The Regulations do not cover contracts for:

  • gambling, including participating in the National Lottery (covered by gambling legislation)
  • financial services such as banking, credit, insurance or personal pensions. However, credit and insurance facilities will be affected if supplied with contracts for goods or services or when offered as an optional extra that the consumer must opt out of (see 'Effects of withdrawal or cancellation on ancillary contracts' and 'Negative options for additional charges' later)
  • the construction of new buildings (or substantially new buildings by the conversion of existing buildings - such as a barn conversion) and the sale of immovable property. However, the construction of extensions to existing buildings will be covered
  • residential letting contracts, but estate agency contracts for their work in connection with the sale or letting of properties are covered
  • the supply of consumables by regular roundsmen such as milkmen - these visits must be frequent and regular to a consumer's home, residence or workplace
  • package travel contracts
  • timeshare and long-term holiday products, including resale and exchange contracts
  • purchases from vending machines
  • single telecom connections - such as payphones and internet café connections

Sales contracts, service contracts & digital content

The Regulations divide the content of the contract into three types:

  • sales contracts. This includes contracts for the sale of goods and also for the supply of goods and services together. This therefore includes the sale of a book, a film on a DVD, the supply of software on a disc, and the supply and fitting of a patio
  • service contracts. This covers contracts that are for services only - for example, the services of a personal trainer or lawyer. Supply of gas and electricity by the utility suppliers are also covered by this definition, whereas gas and electricity are classed as goods when sold in limited amounts - for example, batteries and gas in containers
  • digital content. The supply of data through an intangible medium - for example, music and software downloads or streamed films

Information requirements

General

The Regulations require that you give certain information to consumers who buy goods, services or digital content from you away from your business premises. However, there are some types of contract that are exempt from this requirement:

  • medicinal products or services that are either dispensed on prescription or available free under an NHS arrangement
  • a contract for passenger transport services - such as bus, rail or flight tickets
  • contracts for £42 or less

You must give consumers the information listed below in a way that is clear, comprehensible and legible, before they enter into a contract with you. This information must be given on paper or, if the consumer agrees, on another durable medium.

A durable medium is defined as paper, email or other medium that:

  • allows the information to be addressed personally to the recipient
  • enables the recipient to store the information and access it for future reference (this includes you placing the information in your customer's personal account area of your website, which he can access by logging in)
  • allows unchanged reproduction of this information

The information that you are required to give is as follows:

 athe main characteristics of the goods, services or digital content - you must give as much information as the means of communication allows 
byour identity - such as your trading name
cthe geographical address where you are established and, where applicable, a telephone number, fax number and email address to allow consumers to be able to contact you quickly and efficiently
dif you are acting on behalf of another trader, their identity and geographical address
eif you, or the trader that you are acting for, have a different address for consumer complaints this must also be given
fthe total price of the goods, services or digital content inclusive of tax (such as VAT). If this cannot be calculated in advance you must say how this will be calculated
gall delivery charges or any other costs - if these cannot be calculated in advance you must state that they are payable
hthe monthly, or billing period, costs of open-ended contracts or subscriptions
iany additional costs for using a specific means of distance communication for concluding the contract - this is unlikely for off-premises contracts
jthe arrangements for payment, delivery or performance and the time that you will take to deliver the goods, perform the services or supply the digital content
kif you have one, your complaint-handling policy - providers of services should have a complaint-handling policy in place as required by the Provision of Services Regulations 2009. In addition CTSI approved codes of practice and some trade associations and professional bodies will also require a policy to be in place, which must be made available to consumers
lthe conditions, time limits and procedure for exercising a right to cancel, if there is one (the next section covers cancellation in detail). This information may be provided by correctly filling in and providing the 'Model instructions for cancellation' provided by the Regulations
mif you are expecting consumers to pay the costs of returning the goods after cancellation you must tell them. This information may be provided by correctly filling in and providing the 'Model instructions for cancellation' (see link above)
nif you are offering a service contract that a consumer can expressly request you to start within the cancellation period, you must tell him that he will be required to pay you the reasonable costs of the service that you have delivered up to the time of his cancellation within the cancellation period. This information may be provided by correctly filling in and providing the 'Model instructions for cancellation' (see link above)
oif there are no cancellation rights for specific goods, services or digital content that you offer or there are circumstances in which consumers will lose their right to cancel you must inform them of this
pif you are selling goods you should remind consumers that the goods you sell must be in conformity with the contract - for example, you might say: 'It is our responsibility to supply you with goods that meet your consumer rights. If you have any concerns that we have not met our legal obligations please contact us'
qif you offer any after-sales consumer assistance, services or guarantees you must make consumers aware of this and any applicable conditions
rif you are a member of a code of conduct you must inform consumers how they can obtain a copy of the code - for example, by providing a link to the code sponsor's website
sif the consumer will be entering into a contract of a fixed duration, he must be informed what this is. If the contract has no fixed length, or can be extended automatically he must be informed of the conditions under which he can terminate it
tyou must inform consumers if there is a minimum duration under a contract - for example, a minimum period for a mobile phone contract
uif consumers are required to give deposits or other financial guarantees you must inform them of this obligation and any applicable conditions
vdigital content functionality - this includes information about its language, duration, file type, access, updates, tracking, internet connection, geographical restrictions and any additional purchases required
wdigital content compatibility - information regarding both hardware and other software
xthe existence of any alternative dispute resolution schemes that you are subject to and how to access them 

If you do not give the information items 'g', 'h' or 'm' to the consumer, he will not be required to pay these charges.

In the case of a public auction (see definition below), information items 'b' to 'e' may be replaced with the equivalent details of the auctioneers.

If you need to change any of this information before entering into a contract, or at any later stage, you must agree this with the consumer. Failure to do so will mean that the consumer is not bound by the change of information.

If a right of cancellation exists the consumer must be given a cancellation form, which must be in the following form (please note that this has been placed in a box for illustrative purposes):

Model cancellation form
 

To [here the trader's name, geographical address and, where available, fax number and email address are to be inserted by the trader]:

I/We [*] hereby give notice that I/We [*] cancel my/our contract of sale of the following goods [*] / for the supply of the following service [*],

Ordered on [*] / received on [*],

Name of consumer(s),

Address of consumer(s),

Signature of consumer(s) (only if this form is notified on paper),

Date

[*] Delete as appropriate

Failure to provide the information set out above would allow a consumer to claim that you have breached your contract with him and seek an appropriate remedy. The consumer would also be able to claim, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, that you had breached your contract if he found that any of the above information that you had provided was incorrect.

You also commit a criminal offence if you do not provide the consumer with information items 'l', 'm' and 'n', regarding their cancellation rights, before entering into a contract with him.

Repair or maintenance contracts

The above information requirements do not apply to repair or maintenance contracts if all of the following circumstances are met:

  • the contract is a service contract
  • the consumer has explicitly requested you to carry out the service for the purpose of carrying out repairs or maintenance
  • you are going to perform the contract immediately
  • the cost of the contract is £170 or less

However, there are a number of conditions, all of which you have to meet:

  • you must give the consumer, or make available to him, the following information on paper (or another durable medium if he expressly agrees to this) before he enters into the contract:
    - information items 'b', 'c', 'd', 'f' and 'g' above
    - an estimate of the total price where it cannot reasonably be calculated
    - a cancellation form, where the right to cancel exists (see exceptions to cancellation below)
  • you must give the consumer, or make available to him, the information items 'a', 'l' and 'o' above before he enters into the contract. This can be on paper, or another durable medium or in another way if he expressly agrees to this
  • you must provide the consumer with a copy of the signed contract or confirmation described below. But in addition to the normal confirmation information you must also provide a cancellation notice if the consumer has the right to cancel

Note: the consumer does not have a right to cancel in a situation where he has specifically asked you to call to carry out urgent repairs or maintenance and therefore has no cancellation right (see 'Right to cancel' below for detailed information on cancellation rights).

Copy or confirmation of the contract

After you have agreed a contract with a consumer you must give him a copy of the signed contract or confirmation of the contract. This must be on paper or, if the consumer agrees, on another durable medium. A confirmation must include all the applicable information items 'a' to 'x' listed above. If you have already provided this information to the consumer on a durable medium before the contract was concluded you do not need to give it again.

The copy of the contract or confirmation must be given no later than when you deliver any goods or commence a service.

If your contract involves the supply of digital content that is not on a tangible medium and is to be delivered (at the consumer's request) before the end of the cancellation period, your confirmation must state that you received the consumer's request to start during the cancellation period and that he had acknowledged that he would lose his right to cancel.

Disputes

If there is a dispute with regard to your compliance with these information requirements, the burden is placed upon you to prove that you have done so. It is therefore important that you keep good business records.

Right to cancel

Contracts with no right to cancel

The following contracts do not have a right to cancel:

  • medicinal products or services that are either dispensed on prescription or are available free under an NHS arrangement
  • a contract for passenger transport services - such as bus, rail or flight tickets
  • contracts for not more than £42
  • the supply of goods or services where prices are dependent upon fluctuations in the financial markets, which are beyond the control of the trader. Utility supplies of gas and electricity are excluded from this exemption (so the right to cancel remains)
  • the supply of goods that are made to the consumer's specification or are personalised - for example, a made to measure suit or pair of curtains, or a gift that has the recipient's name engraved on it. This may also apply to goods supplied as part of home improvements contracts, such as kitchen cabinets or double glazed windows that have been made specifically to the measurements for the customer's home rather than using stock parts. However, this exemption does not apply to items made to a consumer's specification simply by combining stock items - such as a standard sized window unit bought from a trade supplier, a computer put together from stocked parts or a car ordered from a fixed menu of items
  • the supply of goods that are liable to deteriorate or expire rapidly - such as a delivery of fresh flowers or meat
  • the supply of alcoholic drinks (such as vintage wines bought for investment purposes) where the following apply:
    - the price has been fixed by the contract
    - delivery can only take place after 30 days
    - the value is subject to market fluctuations beyond the control of the seller
  • contracts where the consumer has specifically requested the trader to call to carry out urgent repairs or maintenance. However, this exemption does not apply to other goods or other services provided at the same time. An example would be a plumber who calls at a consumer's home to replace a broken immersion heater. Whilst there the plumber also offers to repair a dripping tap - this extra work, if done during the visit, would retain a cancellation right
  • the supply of newspapers, periodicals or magazines. However, subscription contracts retain a cancellation right
  • contracts concluded at a public auction. A 'public auction' is defined in the Regulations as: 'a method of sale where:
    - goods or services are offered by a trader to a consumer through a transparent, competitive bidding procedure run by an auctioneer
    - the consumers attend or are given the possibility to attend in person
    - the successful bidder is bound to purchase the goods or services
    '
  • the supply of accommodation, transport of goods, vehicle rental services, catering or services related to leisure activities if the contract provides for a specific date or period of performance - for example, hotel bookings, courier services, car hire, restaurant bookings and theatre tickets for specific dates

In addition consumers will lose their right to cancel if they:

  • unseal goods that are not suitable for return if they are unsealed, due to health protection or hygiene reasons
  • unseal audio, video recordings or computer software that were sealed at the time of delivery
  • combine goods with other goods after delivery, so that they become inseparable

Cancellation period

There are two rights for consumers who decide that they do not wish to proceed with a contract. They are able to:

  • withdraw their offer if it has not been accepted by the trader. This is an open-ended right, which will end when the contract is made, after which they can move to their right to cancel if appropriate
  • cancel a contract. Within a specified period of time, the Regulations give consumers the right to pull out of a contract that they would otherwise be bound by providing the contract is not one where there is no right to cancel (see above)

Cancellation periods are set out in the table below. The periods start from when the contract was made until the end of the period shown in the table. Reference will be made to sales contracts, service contracts and digital content and you should refer back to the definitions provided earlier.

Type of contractCancellation period
a service contract14 days, starting the day after the day on which the contract was made
the supply of digital content not supplied on a tangible medium14 days, starting the day after the day on which the contract was made*
a sales contract (goods or goods and services) but see below14 days, starting the day after the day on which the goods come into the physical possession of the consumer or the person that he asks you to deliver the goods to
a sales contract consisting of an order for multiple goods that are delivered on different days14 days, starting the day after the day on which the last of the goods come into the physical possession of the consumer or the person that he asks you to deliver the goods to
a sales contract consisting of an order for multiple lots or pieces that are delivered on different days14 days, starting the day after the day on which the last of the lots or pieces come into the physical possession of the consumer or the person that he asks you to deliver the goods to
a sales contract for regular delivery of goods during a period of longer than one day14 days, starting the day after the day on which the first of the goods come into the physical possession of the consumer or the person that he asks you to deliver the goods to

[*This period does not apply if the consumer has expressly requested that the download is started within the cancellation period, has acknowledged the loss of their cancellation right and has been given the required information. See 'Supply of digital content in the cancellation period' below.]

If you do not provide consumers with information about their right to cancel (information item 'l' above) their cancellation period is extended to 14 days, starting the day after the day that you do give them this information. The longest that this period can be extended to is 12 months from the day after the normal cancellation period would have ended.

A consumer can withdraw from the contract, or cancel within the cancellation period, by informing you that he wishes to do so. There is no requirement for how this should be done but in the event of a dispute the burden falls upon the consumer to prove that he did cancel within the cancellation period. Therefore the consumer will be well advised to ensure that he has some durable proof of his cancellation, which you could ask for if there was a dispute regarding whether or when he had informed you of his decision to cancel.

The Regulations do offer some guidance on how consumers can exercise their right to cancel a contract:

  • they can use the model cancellation form (shown above), but they don't have to
  • they can use any other clear statement to inform you
  • if you offer an online cancellation option on your website consumers need not use it
  • if consumers do use your online option you must acknowledge receipt of their cancellation, using a durable medium, without delay
  • cancellation is only effective if the communication is sent to you before the end of the cancellation period - the key time is when the communication was sent, not when you received it

Effects of withdrawal or cancellation

If a consumer withdraws from a contract or exercises their right to cancel, both your and their obligations under the contract are ended. In addition you must reimburse the consumer all that he has paid you, including any original delivery costs (you cannot charge any cancellation fees). However, if a consumer has expressly requested a delivery method that is more expensive than your basic cost, you are only obliged to refund your basic delivery cost - for example, if a consumer has opted for your next day delivery service rather than your standard method by second class post. You may also be able to deduct the value of services that you have provided, at the consumer's express request, during the cancellation period (see 'Supply of a service in the cancellation period' below).

You must reimburse the consumer without undue delay and within 14 days from the day after the consumer informs you of his decision. If the consumer is sending goods back to you, you need to reimburse within 14 days of the day you get the goods back or, if earlier, 14 days from the day you receive proof from the consumer that he has sent the goods back. You must reimburse the consumer using the same payment method he used originally but you can come to an agreement with the consumer to use an alternative method.

Finally you have a right to deduct an amount from the reimbursement (or charge a consumer) if he has diminished the value of the goods by handling them beyond what is necessary to establish their nature, characteristics and function. The Regulations establish a test as to whether consumers have handled the goods in a way beyond what might reasonably be allowed in a shop. This is likely to be a controversial area of the Regulations for both consumers and traders and will ultimately be a matter for a court to decide. However, the following examples will attempt to illustrate this concept:

  • a consumer returns a storage heater that you have supplied and fitted. You may be able to reduce the reimbursement if the heater has been damaged whilst being returned. This reduction may take account of the replacement of any damaged parts, or to reflect its (now) second-hand value 
  • a consumer returns an aerial that you have supplied and fitted. If he has returned the aerial without any damage you would have to reimburse its full value; however, you would not have to reimburse the costs of the cables and other fittings that the consumer has not returned

In both of the above examples there is also a likely to be a service element of the contract. The rules regarding whether or not the consumer is entitled to any reimbursement for this element are given below.

You are not be able to make any deduction for diminishing the value of the goods if you have not provided consumers with the information about their right to cancel - information item 'l' above.

Return of the goods following cancellation

You must collect goods from a consumer, following cancellation, if you have offered to do so. The consumer need not pay for this unless they have agreed to do so. You must also collect them, without any charge, if the goods were originally delivered to the consumer's home when the contract was made and cannot, due to their nature, normally be returned by post.

In all other cases it is the consumer's responsibility to send the goods back to you or hand them to someone that you have authorised to collect them. Consumers must send the goods back to an address that you have specified. If you haven't given an address they can send them to back to any address that you have specified for consumers to use to contact you. Failing that, consumers can send the goods back to any place where you conduct your business.

The consumer must not delay his return of the goods and should send them back within 14 days of when he informed you of his decision to cancel.

Unless you have agreed to pay the return costs, the consumer must do so. However, this is reliant upon you giving him the information regarding this - information item 'm' above. If you have not given this information, you must pay these costs.

Supply of a service in the cancellation period

The Regulations do allow for service contracts - and for the service element of a sales contract (if there is one) - to be started within the cancellation period (and for you to charge for the services provided during that period if the customer later cancels), but the consumer must have expressly requested this using a durable medium.

A consumer loses his right to cancel a service contract that has been performed fully within the cancellation period, providing he requested this and acknowledged that he would lose his right to cancel once the contract had been performed fully. This does not apply to gas or electricity utility contracts.

In the case of a sales contract involving services that have been completed, the consumer still has the right to cancel and return the goods (as described above) but will have to pay for, or receive no reimbursement for, the service element of the contract. For example, in the case of an aerial that was delivered and fitted on the same day, the customer must pay for labour costs but may still remove and return the aerial to the trader.

Where a service has been started within the cancellation period at the express request of the consumer, but has not been completed, the consumer still has the right to cancel. However, the consumer will have to pay for the service used during the time up to when he informed you of his decision to cancel. What he should pay will be in proportion to what has been supplied in comparison with the full contract price. The amount is to be calculated either:

  • on the basis of the total price
    ...or
  • if the total price is excessive, based upon the market price of what has been supplied, calculated by comparing the prices for similar services from other traders

A consumer will not have to pay you for services supplied in the cancellation period if you have not provided him with information items 'l' and 'n' above. Nor will the consumer have to pay if he had not expressly requested you to start within the cancellation period. Therefore if you start to deliver a service on your own initiative during the cancellation period the consumer will not have to pay you if he decides to cancel.

Supply of digital content in the cancellation period

You can supply digital content that is not on a tangible medium (in other words, is downloaded, streamed, etc) within the cancellation period provided the consumer has expressly requested this and acknowledged that by doing this he has lost his right to cancel.

However, if you have not met the following criteria, the consumer will still be able to cancel within the cancellation period and will not have to pay you for any digital content supplied:

  • he must have expressly requested that you begin the supply of the digital content during the cancellation period
  • he must have acknowledged that his right to cancel would be lost
  • you must have confirmed his express request and acknowledgement of the loss of his cancellation right as part of your confirmation of his contract

Effects of withdrawal or cancellation on ancillary contracts

An ancillary contract is one that relates to the main contract and can be provided by you or a third party with whom you have an arrangement. Financial services (generally exempted from these Regulations) are covered if they are an ancillary contract.

Where a consumer withdraws an offer or cancels a contract, any ancillary contract will also be terminated without further cost, subject to the various provisions above. You must inform any trader with whom the consumer has the ancillary contract that their contract has been terminated.

For example, if you have sold a car with a separate insurance contract and the consumer cancels within the cancellation period, they will not have to pay for the insurance (or they must be refunded the cost). If the consumer has consented to the insurance starting within the cancellation period he will have to pay the proportion of the cost up to the time of cancellation as described above.

Negative options for additional charges

Where there are additional items linked to the main contract (for example, insurance and/or car hire with a contract for a flight, or gift-wrapping when purchasing a present) paying for these items as well must not be the default option. Consumers should always be asked to expressly consent to additional charges. For example consumers should not have to untick a box on your order form indicating they want optional insurance against your insolvency whilst the work is being carried out.

Consumers will not be liable for any additional payments that they have not actively consented to and they have the right to request that they are refunded for these payments.

Basic rate telephone helpline charges

If you provide a telephone line for consumers to contact you in relation to a contract that they have entered into with you, you cannot charge more than a basic rate for this service. Therefore you can only charge normal geographic or mobile rates. A consumer should not pay more to contact you about his purchase than he would to phone a friend or relative.

Consumers who are charged more than the basic rate are entitled to claim any overcharge back from you.

You should check carefully whether your phone line does cost consumers more than basic rates. In addition to numbers beginning 09, other revenue-sharing numbers such as 084, 0871, 0872 or 0873 would not comply. Nor would 0870 numbers, which would vary according to the consumer's own phone tariff.

The following numbers comply with the Regulations:

  • geographic numbers - starting 01 or 02
  • non-geographic numbers - starting 03
  • Freephone numbers - starting 0800 or 0808
  • mobile numbers - starting 07 (except numbers starting 070, which are not mobile numbers)

Time for delivery of goods

Unless you agree otherwise it is your responsibility to deliver the goods that you have sold to a consumer. If you do not agree a delivery time you must deliver the goods without undue delay and certainly no later than 30 days from the day after the contract was made.

A consumer may treat a contract as being at an end and request a full refund in any of the following circumstances:

  • you refuse to deliver the goods
  • you fail to deliver within the agreed time and it is clear from the circumstances, or from what the consumer has told you, that this agreed time was essential
  • the consumer has specified an appropriate delivery period, which you fail to meet

If your contract consists of a variety of goods, some of which you fail to deliver on time, the consumer has the right, as an alternative to ending the contract, to cancel that part of the order or return goods that have already been delivered. You must then reimburse him without undue delay for the goods that have been cancelled or rejected. If the goods form part of a commercial unit that would be devalued or have its character changed if they were split up, the consumer can only cancel the order for the goods or reject them as a whole.

This does not prevent consumers also seeking other remedies that they are entitled to for late deliveries. As an example, a consumer who suffers delays as the result of the late delivery of parts of a fitted kitchen may be able to claim the wasted labour costs of their fitters if they are able to quantify this.

This requirement is now found in the Consumer Rights Act 2015; although the provision has moved it is the same as it was under the Regulations.

Passing of risk

Unless a consumer arranges their own carrier, the goods that you deliver to him remain at your risk until they come into the physical possession of the consumer or the person that they ask you to deliver the goods to. Therefore if your carrier fails to deliver the goods, or delivers them to the wrong address, this is your responsibility and not the consumer's. If you do not rectify this you may be liable for a claim for late delivery (see above).

If the consumer uses their own carrier, you cease to be responsible for the goods once the carrier receives them.

This requirement is also now found in the Consumer Rights Act 2015; although the provision has moved it is the same as it was under the Regulations. 

Time periods

All time periods quoted in this guidance will be extended to the next working day if they end on a Saturday, Sunday or Bank Holiday. This includes all cancellation periods and the time limits for returning goods, providing refunds, etc.

Penalties

If you do not comply with the Regulations, in addition to remedies available to consumers for breach of contract, trading standards services can apply for a court order requiring you to comply. If the order is not complied with the maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.

Futhermore, failing to provide the relevant cancellation information to the consumer, when entering into an off-premises contract, is an offence. The maximum penalty is a fine.

Further reading

More information is available in the Implementing Guidance published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (which was known as the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills at the time).

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: December 2016

PixelPlease note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.