Any purchases made by 'distance' (online, mail order, phone etc.) qualify for a number of consumer rights due to the Consumer Contracts Regulations which came into effect in June 2014. The regulations replace the previous 'Distance Selling Regulations, and tighten up the legislation on what information traders are expected to give.
Delivery of Information
If a trader fails to provide information as specified in the regulations, the cancellation rights may be extended by up to a year. Information should be provided in a means appropriate to the sale medium, for example a written description and accurate photo might be expected for something you're buying online
Under the latest regulations, the following information should be provided:
- A description of the service/goods, which should include how long the customer's commitment will last where applicable
- Total price of the purchase, or workings of how the price will be calculated if not pre-determined
- Cost of any delivery, and details of who pays in the event of a return delivery being required
- Details of the customer's right to cancel
- Contact information about the seller, including address and phone details
- When applicable, information regarding compatibility of digital content in regards to hardware/devices and software.
Cancelling An Order
For most purchases, 'your right to cancel' begins from the moment the order is placed, and ends 14 days after receiving the items. In instances where the goods are split over more than one delivery, your right to cancel begins 14 days after you have accepted the final delivery. This simply means that you can return the goods for any reason in this period, although you may have to pay the return postage if this has already been specified as part of the sales contract by the seller.
You should get a refund back within 14 days of the trader getting the goods back. If the seller claims to have not received the goods back, the regulations stipulate that a refund has to be provided within 14 days of the date printed on your proof of postage receipt. Your entitled to examine the goods like you would in a shop, but excessive usage will mean that the merchant is entitled to reduce the refund amount, to account for any use you've already had out of the item.
The trader must also refund the basic delivery cost of getting the goods to you. In practice this means that if you've paid extra for an expedited delivery, the merchant only has to refund the cost of a basic delivery.
Of course there are exceptions to all of the above. The most notable items which have more specific rules for return are opened digital media (DVDs, CDs, Games etc), perishable goods and personalised/tailor made items.
To cancel a service contract you also have 14 days from the start of the contract in which to cancel it. If you have already used the services up to the point of cancellation, you will have to pay for them on a pro-rata basis. For example if you've cancelled a cable TV contract, but had it active for one week before cancelling, you'd be expected to pay a quarter of the monthly subscription charge.
Again there are a few exceptions where this doesn't apply. For example holiday bookings, concert tickets, flights etc. - unless of course the reason for cancellation is the fault of the merchant.
The Consumer Contracts Regulations forbid retailers from adding pre-ticked boxes for 'extras' during the checkout process. If you've been charged for something in this way you're entitled to get your money back.
The Consumer Contracts Regulations are in addition to rights you already have as a consumer. These rights stipulate that any goods sold have to be in working order (unless stated), of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. Additionally they have to match any description and representation of them portrayed during the initial sales 'pitch', and must accomplish any specific purpose you've discussed with the trader. Therefore, if you've received something that's faulty, doesn't do what it's meant to do, or simple doesn't match the description and assumed expectations, simply return it to the merchant and demand a refund.