Everything you need to know about distance selling by @SA_Law Stuart Sproule #IndieRetail

Any business which supplies goods or services must ensure it complies with a number of regulations as to the description, quality and suitability of those goods or services, as well as the information it provides to consumers.  When selling at a distance, such as via the internet, telephone or mail order, there are a number of extra rules which apply.

 Distance Selling Regulations and what they mean to retailers…

The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 and Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) (Amendment) Regulations 2005, (the DSRs), apply to sales made between businesses and consumers which are concluded at a distance.  The DSRs provide additional rights to consumers when buying at a distance, as with this kind of transaction, there is no face-to-face contact between the consumer and the seller, and the consumers cannot inspect the goods or services before they buy.

The protection given by the DSRs aims at encouraging consumer confidence by ensuring that all businesses who sell goods or services at a distance meet general, basic requirements.

Information overload

Businesses selling at a distance must provide consumers with clear information before they can make an informed choice and enter into a contract.  The information must include details of the business, a description of the goods or services, the price including all taxes, and details of the payment arrangements and delivery options.  This must be followed by written confirmation of the contract (which may be by fax or e-mail).


When selling at a distance, consumers must have a cooling-off period during which they have a right to cancel the contract.  Consumers can cancel by informing the business in writing up to seven working days after the day the goods were delivered, or, in the case of services, seven working days after the day the contract was agreed.

However, a consumer will not be able to cancel a contract for services once performance of the services has begun.  The supplier must, in these circumstances, provide the consumer with information as to how the right to cancel may be affected if the consumer agrees to performance beginning less than seven working days before the end of the cooling-off period. This information must be provided before, or in good time during, the performance of the contract.

The supplier must reimburse the consumer with any money paid within a maximum of 30 days of receiving notice of cancellation.

There are some exceptions to the rights of cancellation including contracts for the provision of accommodation, transport, catering or leisure activities; where the services are supplied on a specific date or for a specific period; the sale of bespoke goods or perishable goods; and sealed audio, video or software products which have been opened.

Fraudulent Payments

Consumers may cancel payments made fraudulently on their payment cards.  Section 84(1) of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, which provides that consumers may be liable to the credit provider for up to £50 of their losses when the card is used without the cardholder’s permission, is disapplied in respect of distance-selling contracts.

Exceptions to the rules

The DSRs do not apply to a number of contracts.  These exceptions include contracts for financial services, the sale of land for freehold and leasehold interests (the DSRs do, however, apply to short term tenancy or leasehold arrangements between a business and a consumer concluded by distance means), auctions, products bought from automated vending machines or from automated commercial premises (such as photo booths), or business-to-businesses contracts.


Compliance with the DSRs is a legal requirement. The DSRs are enforced by the Office of Fair Trading, local authority trading standards departments inGreat Britainand the Department of Trade,Enterpriseand Investment inNorthern Ireland.  These bodies have the power to consider complaints and seek court action for breach and compliance.

And finally…

Some basic tips for businesses when trading by distance-selling methods include:

  1. Provide consumers with clear and comprehensive information of the business and the goods or services before they place their order.
  2. Provide the consumer with a written order confirmation.
  3. Provide the consumer with details of how and when they can cancel their order and who bears the cost of returning cancelled goods.
  4. Provide information of any after-sales service and complaints procedure.

For more detailed information and advice on understanding and complying with your obligations under the distance selling regulations you should speak to a solicitor.

This blog was written by Stuart Sproule. Stuart is a solicitor in the Corporate Department at SA Law and deals with all aspects of Corporate and Commercial law. Stuart regularly undertakes the drafting and review of commercial contracts, terms and conditions documentation and loan agreements.

Established in 2005, SA Law is a market-leading law firm. Operating from St Albans in Hertfordshire, it provides businesses and individuals with expert advice and representation.

If you would like more information or advice relating to a specific matter, please do not hesitate to contact Stuart on 01727 798075, by email at stuart.sproule@salaw.com or connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/stuartsproule


About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email champion@retailchampion.co.uk.
This entry was posted in Blog-a-day for Indie Retail, Independent Retailer Month 2011, robust repeatable processes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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