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Posts Tagged ‘Consumers’

Information to be provided by website owners- if you don’t, customers don’t have to pay!

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Here is a list of the ‘pre-contract’ information that all website owners who supply goods or services to consumer customers ( as opposed to business customers) have to provide under the new Consumer Contracts Regulations– if not, consumers don’t have to pay for the goods or services supplied or they could have extended cancellation rights!!!

  • the main characteristics of the goods, services or digital content – you must give as much information as the means of communication allows
  •  your identity – such as your trading name

    Do your customers know who you are?

    Do your customers know who you are?

  •  the 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 *
  •  if you are acting on behalf of another trader, their identity and geographical address *
  •  if you, or the trader who you are acting for, have a different address for consumer complaints this must also be given *
  • the 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
  •  all delivery charges or any other costs – if these cannot be calculated in advance you must state that they are payable
  •  the monthly, or billing period, costs of open-ended contracts or subscriptions
  •  any additional costs for using a specific means of distance communication to make the contract – for example, if you make an extra charge for buying by phone as opposed to online *
  •  the 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 *
  • if 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 TSI 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 *
  • the conditions, time limits and procedure for exercising a right to cancel, if there is one . This information may be provided by correctly filling in and providing the ‘Model instructions for cancellation‘ provided by the Regulations
  •  if you are expecting consumers to pay the costs of returning the goods after cancellation you must tell them, or if the goods cannot normally be returned by post (they are too large, for example) you must advise consumers of the cost of returning them. This information may be provided by correctly filling in and providing the ‘Model instructions for cancellation’ (see link above) *
  • if you are offering a service contract that a consumer can expressly ask 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) *
  •  if 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 *
  •  if 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’ *
  •  if you offer any after-sales consumer assistance, services or guarantees you must make consumers aware of this and any applicable conditions *
  •  if 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 *
  • if the consumer will enter 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

 

*If the means of distance communication that you are using limits the space or the time that is available to provide the information, these items may be provided in a different but appropriate way.

You must give consumers the information listed above in a way that is clear, comprehensible and appropriate to the means of distance communication before they enter into a contract with you. In addition, if you provide this information on a durable medium you must make sure that it is legible.

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 will include 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. SO you can’t just provide a link to terms on your website as you may change them at some point.

If you sell goods online, our template E commerce terms of sale, cover all of the above and come complete with guidance notes and 30 minutes free advice if you get stuck.

 

The law for on-line sales has changed. Are your terms up to date?

Friday, September 5th, 2014

“Your statutory rights are not affected…” Do you actually know what this means?

As a business owner, you may not be aware that your customers have certain rights by law and even if your terms say otherwise. These are so-called “statutory rights” because they are granted by statute. Usually these overide any other terms you may seek to enforce. Set out below are key provisions in relation to online sales that became law recently. If you do not comply with them, you may have the law knocking at your door…

Consumer Contracts Regulations  2013

These regulations replaced the Distance Selling Regulations  and apply to distance contracts entered into on or after 13 June 2014. Note that the Consumer Contracts Regulations apply only partially to some sector-specific contracts (including for example goods made to the customer’s specification, goods liable to deteriorate or expire rapidly and goods for which the price is dependant on fluctuations in the financial market) and do not apply at all to others (including food and beverages delivered by roundsmen).

SO, if you sell online to consumers you must:

  • provide certain information before your customer enters into a transaction with you ( such as who you are, right to cancel etc) and this must be confirmed on a durable medium, such as an e-mail.
  • make it clear when proceeding with the transaction will trigger a payment (for example by labelling the payment button with “Order with obligation to pay”)
  • get the consumer’s express prior consent before taking any additional payments (for example, pre-ticked boxes will not be permitted).
  • allow consumers to cancel the contract within a cooling off period of 14 days. This period can be extended by up to 12 months if you fail to provide the information. So saying nothing and hoping the 14 days will come and go is not an option!
  • deliver goods within 30 days, unless otherwise agreed with the consumer.
  • not offer a premium rate telephone line to contact you about an existing contract.

Payment Surcharges Regulations

These apply to contracts entered into on or after 6 April 2013 (with some sectoral exclusions from scope). These impose a ban on charging the consumer an excessive fee for using any given means of payment. For example, charging an excessive fee for using a credit card as opposed to a debit card.

If your terms are out of date or you have none (!), then our ‘oven-ready’ document shop has a ready made template that you can use. It comes with comprehensive guidance notes and 30 minutes free advice if you get stuck. See here for more details.

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What does the future hold for the Office of Fair Trading, and what impact will this have over advertising regulations? Watch this space!

Monday, January 30th, 2012

In line with the Government’s endeavours to transfer “decision-making powers and services to those at local level best able to exercise them to meet public need and then giving citizens the ability to hold the local decision-makers to account.[1], the Government welcomes the fact that consumers are becoming increasingly empowered in making wise and informed decisions when purchasing goods and services.  The Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) published a proposal in June 2011[2] stating, “Empowered consumers demand choice and by exercising it, stimulate competition and innovation as well as high standards of consumer care.  Without informed consumers driving a hard bargain, businesses can become complacent and lose focus on becoming more efficient or investing in better goods and services.”  The Government therefore commends the positive effect of organisations such as Which? and Moneysavingexpert.com in providing more vigilant consumers with independent advice and information; and third sector bodies like Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland for the more vulnerable consumers.  Similarly it welcomes the increase in “the use of e-commerce and internet-based information and comparison sites by consumers to enable them to get the best deals.

Furthermore the BIS points out that if the law is “too prescriptive”, it will run “the risk of dampening competition and innovation”.  “Excessive regulation may limit consumer choice and, even if intended to protect consumers, can end up costing them more than the benefit it brings.

A general re-structure of the current system has therefore been suggested by the Government, whereby “responsibility for each aspect of consumer advice, representation and enforcement should be clear and should rest principally with one of three key institutions”.  These three institutions would be: (i) The Citizens Advice Service; (ii) “Trading Standards comprising Local Authority Trading Standards Services (LATSS), the Trading Standards Institute (TSI), the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers (ACTSO) and the support infrastructure offered by the Local Government Group”’ and (iii) a new Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), created by merging the competition functions of the OFT and the Competition Commission.

With regards advertising, under the current structure businesses are largely trusted to ensure their advertisements are “decent, honest and truthful for the benefit of consumers, business and society”.  They may draft their own code designed for the protection of their consumers, subject to approval from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT); or they may ensure that they abide by the codes and guidelines developed by the Advertising Standards Agency (which have of course, also been approved by the OFT).  The OFT has statutory powers to prosecute any advertiser in breach of these codes.

The BIS proposes the creation of a single Competition and Markets Authority, whereby “the OFT will be merged into the new body which will have a principal focus on competition and markets.”  On the basis that a “role in consumer codes approval does not seem appropriate for the CMA”, the BIS suggests instead that businesses’ consumer codes need no longer be approved by the OFT, but by other means.  The Kitemark® accreditation system is proposed as one option; or alternatively an increased role by non-public bodies such as Which? The OFT’s other main function – that is, to prosecute offending advertisers – is also to be revised.

In October 2011, The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) published a response to the BIS proposal, which largely defends the current system.  The outcome is yet to be decided…

For more information see: www.oft.gov.uk


[1] Edward Davey MP (Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs)

[2] “Empowering and Protecting Consumers: Consultation on institutional changes for provision of consumer information, advice, education, advocacy and enforcement”