Your rights with distance sellers
If you buy goods from a trader without having face-to-face contact with them, this is known as distance selling. Examples of distance sales include goods that are bought:
- by telephone or fax, including text messaging and mobile phones
- by mail order
- electronically through the internet, e-mail or digital television
- through a shopping channel or teletext
- from a catalogue
- through a newspaper or magazine advert order form
If you buy goods in any of these ways, you have rights on top of those you have when you buy goods in a shop. The most important of these is the right to a 'cooling off' period. This gives you the right to cancel your order within seven working days, without having to pay anything. The trader must tell you about this right when you place your order. Other additional rights you have when you make a distance purchase include the right:
- to be given the name and address of the trader
- to be given the price of the goods, including taxes and delivery charges
- to receive the goods within 30 days
- to keep or dispose of any goods you receive but have not ordered. If a seller demands payment for goods you haven't ordered, you don't have to pay for them or return them – see under the heading Charging for goods you didn't order.
NOTE: If you use a credit card to buy goods in any of these ways, you also get special protection against the fraudulent use of your credit card details
If the trader won't leave you alone and continues to contact you when you've told them not to, they may be guilty of a criminal offence. You should report them to Consumer Direct – see under the heading Further help for contact details.
E-commerce is when you buy goods electronically. Buying goods over the internet, by text message or mobile phone are all examples of e-commerce. When you buy goods using e-commerce, you have the same rights as when you buy in a shop and by distance sale, but the trader must also give you some additional information. This applies if you use e-commerce to buy goods in the UK, or anywhere else in the European Union. The trader must:
- give you detailed instructions for completing your order
- tell you how to correct any mistakes you might make when placing your order
- supply any terms and conditions of the sale in a format that can be easily saved or printed out
- tell you whether they will keep a file of the sale for you to access
- tell you about any codes of conduct which apply to the sale and how you can look them up electronically
- send an acknowledgement that the order has been received.
Case Summary The Facts
Mrs Smith purchased a 3D television online. She paid with her credit card when placing the order and selected the 3 day delivery option. The day after she ordered the television Mrs Smith was informed by her son that she did not have a 3D subscription and therefore that this was not the best television for her to purchase. Mrs Smith therefore contacted the website and asked if she could cancel the order. The website refused and stated that she had already paid for the goods and therefore had to take delivery.
One week later the television still had not arrived and no refund had been made. Mrs Smith telephoned the website company again only to discover that they had ceased to trade.
The Legal Position
There are 2 crucial points to note:
1. Because Mrs Smith ordered online she had distant seller rights. This meant that she was entitled to a 'cooling off' period so she was perfectly entitled to ask for a refund the day after she purchased the TV.
2. Just because the website ceased to trade, it does not mean that Mrs Smith loses her money. She paid using her credit card and under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 she has the right to claim the amount that she paid for the television from her credit card company.
Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the legal information contained on “YouandYourRights” is accurate, it does not constitute legal advice tailored to your individual circumstances. If you act on it, you acknowledge that you do so at your own risk. Neither the Proprietor nor Dean Dunham can assume responsibility and do not accept liability for any damage or loss which may arise as a result of your reliance upon it.