In April 2014 we reported on the then incoming regulations governing the sales of goods and services to consumers in the UK (click here to view our alert). Those regulations came into force on 13 June 2014 implementing the EU Consumer Rights Directive which was intended to harmonize “distance selling” (online sales)  across the EU.

The new regulations required some important changes in the way retailers’ contracts with their customers work.  (Those contracts typically take the form of online terms and conditions.)  Of most significance, online customers must be given 14 calendar days to cancel their orders from receipt of the merchandise (the cooling off period) and a further 14 days from cancellation in which to return the goods.  Any shorter returns period is unlawful subject to some very specific exceptions for goods that deteriorate quickly or certain types of services.  But, almost two years later, there are still a number of retailers who have not updated their online terms and conditions to comply with these requirements.

On 1 March 2016, consumer watchdog (“MSE”) named and shamed 17 UK retailers (including some household names) whose online returns policies provide incorrect and/or outdated information as to their customers’ legal rights.  In addition to the time period customers must be given for cancellation and return, some of these websites state that customers are not entitled to be refunded the cost of delivery on return which is also unlawful (although we note that customers are only ever entitled to a refund of standard delivery charges even when they chose a faster and more expensive method of delivery in the first instance).

Following the MSE report, 13 of the 17 named retailers agreed to review their website terms and conditions according to MSE (click here to view the article) but the 4 that have not undertaken a review have since been reported to Trading Standards for enforcement action.