A review of the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 has ended in changes effective April 2005. But if we struggle to make sense of them, how are consumers going to cope?
Topic: Distance selling
New Law: Amendments to the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000
In force since 31st October 2000, the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 introduced a statutory, unconditional cancellation right for sales to consumers of products and services where there was no face-to-face contact with the seller. The regulations did not extend to financial services, which are the subject of a separate set of regulations, in force since 31st October 2004.
There were complaints from industry that aspects of the 2000 Regulations were unclear, impracticable or unduly costly for suppliers. In response, the Government promised to review the position and a consultation document on the topic was published in 2004 and reported on marketinglaw.co.uk.
Now, at the other end of the process, proposals have been published for changes to the 2000 Regulations.
These are by no means as extensive as in the consultation document.
The only significant change to the Regulations that will be made relates to the exercise of the cancellation right in relation to contracts for the supply of services.
Under the present Regulations, if a business is selling services at a distance, it must inform consumers, prior to the conclusion of the contract for the supply of those services, that the consumer will not be able to cancel the contract once the performance of the services has begun. This information must be conveyed in writing or in another durable medium.
Under the new rules, it will be possible to provide information later about the impact on cancellation rights of services starting to be performed after the conclusion of the contract, provided this is done during the performance of the service. In such a scenario, the cancellation period ends either with the expiry of a period of seven working days beginning with the day on which the consume receives the information, or if the performance of the contract is completed before the expiry of that seven day period, on the day when the performance of the contract is concluded.
So are we all now clear on this? The DTI seems to be at least and in its new proposed guidance, it summarises the new rules.
Five cancellation right timings
It states that in the case of a contract for the supply of services, the right to cancel will start the day the contract is concluded. It will end in one of no less than five different ways.
Way one will be seven days after the day after the contract is concluded, provided the supplier provides the written/durable information about the cancellation right on or before the day the contract is concluded.
In way two, the cancellation right ends when performance starts, if by that time the supplier has provided the written/durable information and the consumer has agreed to the service starting within the seven days.
In way three, the cancellation right ends seven days after the day after the consumer receives the written/durable information, if the supplier provides it during performance of the service.
Way four is when performance is completed, if that is within seven clear days of the consumer having received the written durable information, and the consumer agrees to the service starting within the seven days.
Way five is three months and seven days from the day after the date the contract was agreed if none of the above ways applies. All clear then?
Next important date: 5th April 2005 when the new rules come into force.