The UK's Distance Selling Regulations
This guide is based on UK law. It was last updated in July 2010.
The Distance Selling Regulations were passed to protect consumers when they shop online or enter into other contracts at a distance from the supplier. The rationale for giving consumers special protection in such deals is that the consumer does not have the benefit of meeting face-to-face with the supplier and inspecting the goods or services offered for sale.
Properly called the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000, the Regulations do not apply to contracts between businesses. They have been in force across the UK since 31st October 2000 and they implement a 1997 EU Directive on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts.
When do the Regulations apply?
In the case of Frosted Lime Ltd, the Regulations apply to distance contracts. These are contracts for the sale of goods or the provision of services in:
- Giftware retail and
- Glass engraving services
- The Sale of Goods Act 1979 which stipulates that goods and services must be ‘of merchantable quality’ and ‘as described’ by the seller. They must also be fit for the purpose for which they were sold.
- The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 which required that all products supplied for consumer use are generally safe, including items given free of charge.
Distance communication in the case of Frosted Lime Ltd includes:
- web pages
- addressed printed matter
What are the requirements of the Regulations?
The Regulations require a supplier to:
- Give consumers certain information prior to conclusion of the contract.
- Give consumers confirmation of the prior information in writing or in another durable medium which is available and accessible to the consumer (Email is an acceptable medium for this but displaying the information on a web page is not).
- Give consumers certain additional information (e.g. in respect of cancellation rights).
- Perform the contract within a certain time period.
A distance contract will not be enforceable against a consumer unless the supplier has provided to the consumer in good time prior to the conclusion of the contract the following information:
- the identity of the supplier and, where the contract requires payment in advance, the supplier's methods of payment
- a description of the main characteristics of the goods or services
- the price of the goods or services including all taxes
- delivery costs, where appropriate
- the arrangements for payment, delivery or performance (e.g. when the customer can expect delivery of the goods or performance of the services)
- the existence of a right to cancel (see ‘Right to cancel’ below)
- notification that the supplier will meet the costs of the consumer of returning any such substitute goods he or she does not want
An online supplier may choose to include this information in an acknowledgement email that it sends to the consumer when an order is placed. Others will include this information in their terms and conditions and send a copy of these terms to the consumer when an order is placed.
The supplier in a contract for the supply of services shall not be subject to the obligations to provide written confirmation and additional information where those services are supplied on only one occasion and are invoiced by the operator of the means of distance communication.
Right to cancel
Under the Regulations a consumer can cancel a distance contract at any time during the "cancellation period" by notifying this intention to the supplier in writing. However, the consumer will not have the right to cancel in respect of certain distance contracts. With regards to Frosted Lime Ltd this applies to the following contract:
- for the supply of goods which by means of their nature cannot be returned (e.g. personalised goods)
Although the personalisation of goods disallows a cancellation period or refund due to a change of mind or unwanted gift, this does not affect your statutory rights with regards to the supply of unengraved goods, damaged items or engraving errors that are proven to be the responsibility of the supplier rather than the consumer. We cannot refund based on the engraving being different to how you may have imagined it would appear, as long as all your chosen criteria (spelling, font choice, image choice) have been met. It is the supplier’s responsibility to ensure the engraving is completed according to professional experience and artistic understanding of layout and sizing and these points cannot be disputed.
This does not affect your statutory rights with regards to the supply of damaged items or engraving spelling errors that are proven to be the responsibility of the supplier rather than the consumer.
In certain circumstances the supplier may charge the consumer for the cost of the supplier recovering the goods (e.g. where the consumer fails to return them). To do so, the contract must specify that the consumer is under an obligation to return the goods if he or she cancels the contract and the consumer gets notice of this in advance as part of the written confirmation relating to the right to cancel. The costs cannot be passed on to the consumer where the goods are returned because they are faulty or do not comply with the contract for some other reason.
Performance of the contract
Unless the parties agree otherwise, Frosted Lime Ltd will perform the contract within 7 working days, to the point of despatch, from the day after the consumer sends his/her order to the supplier. Exceptions to this would be due to complicated artwork requiring extensive pre-engraving attention or if the consumer required an amount of stock larger than the amount being carried by the supplier. In either of these or similar cases, Frosted Lime Ltd will discuss timings with the consumer on receipt of the order.
If Frosted Lime Ltd is unable to perform the contract within this period, we will inform the consumer and repay any sum paid as soon as possible (and in any event within 30 days), although it is open to the supplier and the consumer to agree a revised date for delivery.
Payment by card
All payment to Frosted Lime Ltd is currently completed by PayPal, who ensure that all payments are made safely. All major credit and debit cards are accepted. Buyers do not require a PayPal account in order to make their payment. For full details of PayPal and their how they will protect your payments, visit www.paypal.com.
The Regulations are enforced by the Office of Fair Trading, local authority trading standards departments in England, Scotland and Wales and the Department of Trade, Enterprise and Investment in Northern Ireland. These bodies have the power to consider complaints and seek court orders for compliance with the Regulations.
For further information on trading laws please contact The Office of Fair Trading at www.oft.gov.uk. For advice on law and details of your nearest Trading Standards office visit www.tradingstandards.gov.uk.