The Government has incorporated EU regulations into domestic law in order to protect consumers who buy goods and services by phone, mail order, fax or via the internet.

The regulations implement the Distance Selling Directive and come into force on October 31, giving people the right to receive more information when buying goods elsewhere than in a shop.

The four regulations include:

  • the right to receive clear information about goods or services before deciding to purchase
  • confirmation of this information in writing or in another appropriate durable medium such as fax or email
  • a cooling-off period of seven working days in which the consumer can withdraw from the contract (although the directive does not apply to business-to-business transactions)
  • unless agreed otherwise with the supplier, the right to receive goods or services within 30 days

    Companies that cold-call consumers will also have to be clear about who they represent and what they are selling.

    The minister for Europe, Helen Liddell, welcomed the protection given by the regulations, saying: “If a supplier fails to comply with the regulations, consumers will be able to cancel the contract and have any money they may have paid up front refunded by the supplier.

    “Where suppliers fail to refund the consumer's money or fail to meet their statutory obligations, the Director General of Fair Trading and Trading Standards Departments will be able to take proceedings for an injunction.”

    Businesses will have a two-month transitional period during which to get used to the regulations.

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