Important changes to the Distance Selling Regulations, DSR – June 13 2014.

If you sell online then you are legally bound to follow the Distance Selling Regulations – DSR.  These have been in operation since 2000 but on June 13 2014 they are being standardised across Europe. Those businesses that are already compliant will still need to review the information they provide pre-contract and also extended returns periods. We highlight the key points for you before the deadline.

The changes are quite extensive and also relate to offline sales and downloadable services which we don’t cover here. For a full list of the changes please visit the Trading Standards website here.

The risks of not being compliant include:

  1. The customer not being liable for any delivery or other charges that have not been made clear up front.
  2. Extending the consumer’s right to cancel for 12 months.
  3. Liability to refund the customer’s call charges for helpline services if they are above the basic rate for calls.

Here are the key areas:

  1. Information at the start of the order process

    You must include information about any delivery restrictions and means of payment.

  2. Pre-contract you must supply, in a “clear and comprehensible manner’…

    • Trader’s name
    • Geographical address of trader
    • Total price, including taxes or the manner in which prices are calculated
    • Additional delivery charges if any
    • The conditions, time limit and procedure for exercising the right to cancel, If it exists.
    • Where applicable, that the consumer will have to bear the cost of returning the goods in case of cancellation.
    • As a concession to the practicalities of buying Transactions from a mobile device certain items can be excluded as long as they are made available elsewhere.A full list is available in this document published by the Trading Standards institute
  3. Post Contract

    The pre-contract information must be forwarded, in a “durable medium” once the customer has purchased the goods.

    A durable medium is now defined as:
    “paper or email, or any other medium that – (a) allows information to be addressed personally to the recipient, (b) enables the recipient to store the information in a way accessible for future reference for a period that is long enough for the purposes of the information, and (c) allows the unchanged reproduction of the information stored”.

    This has been interpreted to mean that emails are considered to be a durable medium. However, links within the email to the internet are not.

  4. Cancellation period extended for 14 calendar days

    The cooling off period is now extended to 14 calendar days where consumers are entitled to change their minds, cancel the contract and change their minds, regardless of whether the product is defective.

    Retailers are obliged to provide a refund within 14 days of returning the goods or from providing proof of postage, whichever is sooner.

    Retailers have a right to make deductions for unreasonable handling or use of goods prior to return.

    Only standard delivery charges need to be refunded in the event of a cancellation and that any premium element, e.g. for next day delivery, does need to be refunded.

  5. Model cancellation form

    Consumers must be given certain information about their cancellation rights, and a “model cancellation form” must be available, although suppliers, may, in addition continue to provide their own cancellation forms.

  6. Avoid pre-ticked options and hidden charges

    Consumers are not bound by charges they have not expressly agreed to. Pre-ticked boxed will not bind a consumer.

  7. Customer helplines

    Premium rate telephone lines must not be used for customer help lines.

As you can see, although the requirements are not particularly punitive, a review of the information you provide your customer’s pre and post contact is very important as without the necessary detail you may be left at risk.

The most concise and complete document, that we have found, that details the changes, has been published by the Trading Standards Institute and can be downloaded here.

If you have any questions, We’re happy to help where we can, but the finer detail should be clarified with a legal professional.

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