Businesses Beware of Forthcoming Changes in Consumer Law

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New laws governing contracts made between consumers and businesses are set to come into effect on 13 June 2014 replacing those currently governing both distance and doorstop selling.  It is important that businesses selling to consumers are aware of the impending changes which will be brought about by the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (‘the Regulations’) to ensure compliance with the new consumer laws.

What will the  new Regulations apply to?

The Regulations will apply to sales between businesses and consumers concluded at a distance and on doorsteps.  So what are sales done at a distance and on doorsteps?

  • Distance: in short, selling at a distance means any means of sales which is not face-to-face (e.g. online or via the telephone).  The Regulations protect those who purchase goods and services at a distance, potentially not knowing what they are getting into.
  • Doorstep: this is exactly how it sounds, sales concluded on your doorstep.  The law protects people against doorstop sales as they are often considered pressurised and more vulnerable people could be taken advantage of.

What do the new Regulations change?

Amongst other things businesses will be required to provide all consumers with certain information prior to selling their goods and services, which will be more extensive than under current consumer law.  It is important that consumer facing businesses are aware of what these requirements are as a failure to do so could be costly, potentially leading to a fine or an extension of the period during which consumers may exercise their right to cancel the contract from 14 days to 12 months!

Dependent on the type of contract, consumers presently have a cooling-off period during which they may cancel a contract for any reason of no more than 7 business days.  The Regulations will increase this to 14 calendar days.  It should be noted that the point at which this cooling-off period will commence depends on the type of contract entered into and businesses must therefore be aware what type of contract they are entering into, particularly where there is a mixture of both goods and services.

We would advise that businesses take this opportunity to review their terms and conditions in order to ensure that they are in line with the Regulations prior to their coming into force in June.  For advice and assistance on how the Regulations could affect your business, contact the Business Law team or call 01254 222399.

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