July 9, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 11 Comments

DSR Update: Consumer Contracts Regulations

dsr-updateA 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,
Andrew

11 Comments
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  1. In your article “DSR Update: Consumer Contracts Regulations” how does this affect private individuals who sell items as Buy It Now. As I understood it a person selling something as Buy It Now only was brought under the Distance Selling Rules and had to offer the same protection.

    Is this the same under the Consumer Contracts Regulations?

    Thanks

  2. I bought a personalise book for a specific day which was a birthday and 4 to five day before my son birthday the wrong book arrived saying happy fathers day and I had just lost my father .The company said they would send out another first class by the 24 June 2015 on the 23 june I phoned the company on line asking for a tracking number which they said they did not have but reassured the personalised book would arrive on the day 6pm at latest .the book never turned up on the 24th and arrive the day after my sons birthday. ive ask for compensation as I incurred cost having to buy a more expensive present which was ill thought-out due to time left, phone calls suffered substantial distress or inconvenience due to delivery problems and it not turning up . time is of the essence’ it meant a lot to me because it was personal present though they breached the contract they offered me the out of date book and 10.00. which I rejected. am in my right to claim compensation for damages. Regarding the spelling and punctuation I have dyslexia and dyspraxia.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Katherine,

      Sorry to hear about your bad experience with that seller. Mistakes happen though and I can see that seller did try to resolve situation asap, unfortunately delivery messed it up by a day.

      As for your rights in this situation – I’m not sure what you can do really – with customised products there are exceptions, like you can’t return it for a full refund in most cases so if this company doesn’t give you full refund as a good will gesture, I don’t think you can do anything to get your money back. I’m sure they have covered shipping delays in their Terms & Conditions which you accepted when placing your order.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

      1. This all depends on the words of the telephone call. It could class as a “time of the essence” clause.

        If Katherine made it clear when requesting the replacement book that she needed it by a particular date, the company accepted this and genuinely assured her that “the personalised book would arrive on the day 6pm at latest “, then that became part of the contract and thus she has every right to cancel the contract under s.42 of the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

        Of course that is subtly but significantly different to
        “May I have the tracking details for my replacement book please?”
        “I’m sorry but we can’t provide tracking information. Your order will be sent today by First Class post and should arrive by 6pm tomorrow.”

        1. Andrew Minalto

          Thanks for your comment Adam.

          That could have worked probably, yes IF Katherine recorded the call. But she probably didn’t…

          Andrew

  3. Hello,

    Do the new Consumer Contracts Regulations apply equally for business and private sellers? I’m a private seller who just sold an item (I am decluttering, and there is no business purpose behind my involvement) on a best offer. The consumer received it and changed their mind within 14 days. Am I obliged to return this item and refund the buyer? Previously with DSR’s, private sellers were excluded but I am less certain about the CCRs?

    Many thanks
    Atull

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Atull,

      As far as I’m aware, Consumer Contracts Regulations only apply to business sellers (B2C transactions), so no, private sellers are not obligated to follow it. eBay asks business sellers to have mandatory 14 day return policy in place, but not private sellers.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  4. […] need to do here, other than request the item is returned back to you. After all, with last year’s updated Consumer Contracts Regulations, you are within your right as a seller to request a return before issuing a refund and thankfully […]

  5. are marketplace sellers located out of the E.U (ie: America/Australia) who are listed on amazon.co.uk or ebay.co.uk subject to Consumer Contracts Regulations

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mick,

      Not 100% sure but I think yes, they are. This is probably explained in detail in Amazon’s Terms and Conditions page.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  6. […] theoretically; there are a number of positives and no downsides to this – after all, as per the new Consumer Contracts Regulations you have to offer a refund for whatever reason for 14 days after the buyer receives their item, so […]

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