A little while ago I wrote an article on DSRs and The Legal Responsibilities of an eBay Seller, because I just came across too many listings on eBay that simply didn’t follow UK law in regards to selling online.
If you missed that post, you can check it out here: WARNING: Distance Selling Regulations on eBay!
But as most of you should be aware, the Distance Selling Regulations were replaced in June this year, and the new Consumer Contracts Regulations came into effect.
The Consumer Contracts Regulations applies to all purchases made online and basically just implements the Consumer Rights Directive of UK law.
But enough of all this regulations and directives talk – the most important question, and I’m sure all you actually want to know, is – how do these changes affect us when selling online?
And that’s exactly what I’m going to go over today.
Firstly let’s cover the new rules in regards to the service you provide:
You must deliver any goods purchased within 30 calendar days, unless the buyer expressly agrees otherwise.
So this first point shouldn’t be a problem for anyone as I really hope all orders are delivered well before 30 days! If an item is out of stock and you are waiting for a new delivery before fulfilling orders then make sure this is made 100% clear. Personally, I would suggest removing that item from sale until you get new stock in because, as we all know, most eBay buyers don’t read much information at all and you’ll end up with a lot of negative feedback for late delivery.
* If you’re using my Good ‘Til Cancelled Listing trick to Reach #1 Spot on eBay’s Search Results then you should NOT cancel the listing as you will lose all your sales history! Instead set the price to a level that no one will buy from you at – just temporarily of course until you receive new stock.
You cannot make your customers use a premium rate telephone line to contact you about an existing contract.
Again, pretty self-explanatory and nothing to worry about as most sellers who care about customer service will already be providing a freephone number or at least a normal geographic number that is included in home-phone and mobile calling plans.
You must not impose excessive payment surcharges when consumers pay by certain means, such as debit or credit cards.
Once again – nothing to worry about at all.
The only real changes that have come into effect with these new regulations are to do with returning goods and a buyer’s ‘right to cancel.
This is also probably the most important consideration for any eBay seller so make sure you read through everything carefully:
The statutory cancellation period (also known as the ‘cooling-off period’) has been extended to 14 calendar days.
This means that a buyer has the right to cancel and return an order for whatever reason for 14 days from when they receive it.
So the cancellation period has been doubled from 7 days to 14 but there are still some exceptions and special circumstances that can apply. Read my original post for more info: Distance Selling Regulations on eBay
Once a buyer has informed you that they want to cancel a contract and return an order, they should do so within 14 days.
You should refund the original purchase price within 14 days of receiving the goods back.
These last two points are very important and are actually changes in favour of sellers. I know – hard to believe, isn’t it!? Previously, under the Distance Selling Regulations, you had to refund a buyer before receiving the goods back which was very problematic with eBay sellers who would then not bother sending it back.
But now there is a clear timeframe for the return of goods and you only have to provide a refund once you’ve received the item(s).
You only have to refund the basic outbound delivery rate.
As before, you still need to refund the original delivery cost, but now only up to the cheapest standard delivery you offer.
So what this means is that if a buyer chooses to upgrade to a more expensive delivery option and then they decide to return the goods, you DON’T have to refund the full amount.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re selling a product for £8 with a £3.80 shipping cost (which is via RM 2nd Class). If you also offer 1st Class Delivery for £5.45 and your customer decides to pay extra for that but then wants to refund the order – you only have to refund £11.80 (i.e. £8 plus the standard shipping cost of £3.80).
You are required to provide your buyers with a link to a model cancellation form (though they are not obliged to use it).
Again, this is pretty self-explanatory. You need to provide a standard cancellation form that your buyers can find and use without having to contact you.
You have the right to deduct a certain amount from refunds where goods show signs of unreasonable use that has lead to diminished value.
Now before you get all excited, let me clarify this, as I’m already seeing a lot of confusion online-
- You CANNOT deduct because the item has been removed from its packaging.
- You CANNOT deduct because an item has been tried or checked.
Customers can handle the goods as much as they would in a regular retail store and you can only deduct if the item has been obviously and definitely used extensively.
You will have to deal with this on a case by case basis, but I would just recommend refunding in full either way. Yes you may save a bit but you will cost yourself a lot of hassle and negative feedback which, at the end of the day, really isn’t worth it.
So I think I have covered pretty much everything.
Of course the actual Consumer Contracts Regulations is much more extensive and covers some others aspects (such as specific rules introduced for digital downloads) but I just wanted to quickly go over the most important points for eBay and eCommerce sellers.
Also, I haven’t bothered to repeat everything that stays the same from the Distance Selling Regulations and as most of that is still relevant, you should check out my previous, more in-depth guide here: Distance Selling Regulations on eBay
I hope this has been useful and that you’re now fully compliant with the latest UK selling laws.
If there’s anything that’s unclear to you and you would like some clarification, then please post below and I’ll do my best to help.
Until next time,