The advice sheets below have the lastest information if you are in a dispute. If you need more advice, please call the Citizen Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.
In the guide
This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales
You have the right to expect that traders that advertise, sell and supply products are honest and treat you fairly. In most cases this is what happens because traders recognise that trading fairly generates customer loyalty and ultimately creates a better business.
However, there are some traders who will intentionally mislead you, leave out or hide important information, engage in aggressive commercial practices or otherwise trade in a way that is unfair to you.
This guide gives you information on the law, how unfair commercial practices are dealt with and signposts you to detailed guidance on your legal right to redress if things go wrong.
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 give clear guidelines to traders as to what is meant by unfair trading and spells out the consequences for traders that are in breach of the Regulations. They also explain your routes to redress when you have been misled by a trader's actions or are the victim of an aggressive commercial practice.
Which products does the law cover?
The definition of a product under the Regulations is wide-ranging and covers:
There are certain products that are excluded from the part of the Regulations that deals with your right to redress; see the 'Misleading & aggressive practices: your right to redress' guide for more information.
What does the law ban?
There is a general ban, or prohibition, on commercial practices that are unfair.
What does 'commercial practice' mean? A commercial practice is anything done by a trader to promote, sell or supply a product at any point before, during or after you make a purchase (if any). It is considered an 'unfair commercial practice' if the following apply:
As well as a general ban, the Regulations also ban commercial practices that are misleading due to a trader's action or omission or because they are aggressive and cause you to take a different decision about a product.
There is a list of 31 commercial practices that are considered unfair in all circumstances and are banned outright.
You have the right to expect that a trader gives you clear and accurate information, which allows you to make an informed decision about a product; however, some traders do not play by the rules. A commercial practice becomes a misleading action when a trader gives you false information or presents it in such a way that it deceives you, or is likely to deceive you (even if it is factually correct) and you then take a decision about the product that you would not otherwise have done.
Misleading actions include:
Information that a trader doesn't provide is as important as what they do provide when you are taking a decision about a product. Just like the effect a missing jigsaw piece has on the entire puzzle, a missing piece of important information about a product can alter your decision to buy. Would you buy a car if a trader told you up-front that the 'one owner from new' was a hire company?
A commercial practice becomes a misleading omission when:
The overall picture matters when deciding if a trader has misled you by omission. Limitations (including time and space) set by the method used by a trader to communicate the information to you may affect how much information a trader can give you about a product. They must, however, take measures to make information available to you by other means. For example, a radio advertisement may give details of a website where you can find more information about a product.
There are special rules that apply when a trader invites you to make a purchase. The main characteristics of the product, the trader's name and address, the price and details of any charges, arrangements for payment and delivery, and the existence of any cancellation rights must be given to you.
Aggressive commercial practices
Some traders will not take no for an answer and use high pressure selling techniques to make a sale. Under the Regulations, aggressive commercial practices are banned, but what is considered 'aggressive'?
A commercial practice is aggressive if the following occur:
There are a range of factors that are considered when deciding whether a trader has used harassment, coercion or undue influence:
An example of an aggressive commercial practice would be a visit from a salesperson to your home that lasted an unreasonable length of time, perhaps hours, and made you feel vulnerable and under pressure. The salesperson may tell you they will not leave your home until you sign a contract. They might lose their temper. All these tactics are designed to pressure you into going ahead with the deal.
Commercial practices that are banned outright
The Regulations include a list of commercial practices that are considered so unfair that they are banned in all circumstances (the commercial practice does not have to affect your decision regarding the product).
Schedule 1 to the Regulations sets out the banned practices in more detail. They are summarised below:
Code of conduct and authorisation:
Product availability and advertising:
Pyramid schemes and prize draws:
Misleading claims about the law / identity:
High pressure selling / claims:
What happens if a trader engages in an unfair commercial practice?
A trader who engages in an unfair commercial practice as set out in the Regulations commits a criminal offence.
If you believe a trader has misled you or behaved aggressively, report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service for referral to trading standards.
Do I have any rights?
If you enter a contract because a trader misled you or because they used an aggressive commercial practice, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 give you rights to redress: the right to unwind the contract, the right to a discount and the right to damages. See 'Misleading & aggressive practices: your right to redress' for more information.
These rights are in addition to the rights and remedies you have under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 when you make a contract with a trader for the supply of goods, services and digital content.
The guides 'Sale & supply of goods: your consumer rights', 'Supply of digital content: your consumer rights' and 'Supply of services: your consumer rights' give more information on your rights and remedies.
The guides 'Sale & supply of goods what to do if things go wrong', 'Supply of digital content - what to do if things go wrong' and 'Supply of services - what to do if thing go wrong' give you a clear direction to follow when you want to complain.
Last reviewed / updated: February 2018
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.
For further information please contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit the Citizens Advice website or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.