The implementation of the EU Consumer Rights Directive which replaces the Distance Selling Directive is moving forward in the UK. The UK Government has published the draft Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013 which will need to be finalised by mid-December. The new rules on distance selling will come into force in June 2014 and will mean changes to online consumer terms and conditions as well as websites.

New provisions include:

  • an increase in the minimum cooling-off period from 7 to 14 days;
  • greater clarification on when the trader is required to pay the consumer's shipping costs for returning the goods;
  • a requirement that the consumer's requirement to pay is made very clear by using a 'PRESS HERE WITH AN OBLIGATION TO PAY' button or similar unambiguous language such as 'PAY NOW' to ensure the consumer understands that by clicking on the button they have entered into a contract with an obligation to pay. Traders that currently use other language such as 'JOIN HERE' or 'BECOME A MEMBER' will need to change their websites.
  • a prohibition on pre-ticking boxes if the option creates an obligation for the consumer to pay an additional amount eg. insurance. A box can be pre-ticked if it is for a free service with no obligation to pay, for example, a free newsletter.

The OFT and Trading Standards have separately commented on the draft Regulations suggesting some changes and simplification to ensure that traders can understand their requirements under the Directive and consumers receive the full benefit of the Directive. One particular criticism has been the definition of durable medium when a trader is required to supply information to a consumer. The draft Regulations include websites in the definition of a durable medium and the Directive does not. The OFT believes that this will push the burden of for example, saving or storing website pages on to the consumer.

We will summarise the new Regulations later this year when they are published in final form.

Draft Regulations - here.

OFT response - here.

Trading Standards response - here.