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How do new consumer contract rules impact my business?


Businesses need to be aware of a number of recent changes to the law that will impact on the terms and conditions or ‘contracts’ they have in place with the consumer.

On 13 June 2014, the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 came into force. These regulations implement the Consumer Rights Directive in the UK, and will apply, with some limited exceptions, to all consumer contracts made on or after 13 June 2014.

The changes affect both in-store purchases and those made off the premises or online, and existing terms and conditions of business will need to be updated to comply with the requirements. Here’s a snapshot of the key changes.

All consumer contracts:

  • Traders must seek the consumer’s express prior consent before taking any additional payments (for example, pre-ticked boxes will not be permitted).
  • Traders must, unless the consumer agrees otherwise, deliver any goods purchased within 30 calendar days.
  • Traders must not make the consumer use a premium rate telephone line to contact the trader about an existing contract.
  • Traders must not impose excessive payment surcharges when consumers pay by certain means, such as credit or debit cards. (This change was in fact made under separate Regulations and has been in force since April 2013.)
  • For the first time, a new concept of digital content is introduced into UK law.

On-premises contracts:

  • The rules introduce a new list of pre-contract information that a trader must give or make available to a consumer under an on-premises contract. (The information is not required in respect of day-to-day transactions which are performed immediately, and there is no requirement to provide it where it is already apparent from the context)

Distance and off-premises contracts:

These rules:

  • Extend the list of pre-contract information that a trader must give to a consumer (there are some differences between distance and off-premises contracts).
  • Introduce new rules on the cancellation of contracts for the supply of digital content not on a tangible medium.
  • Extend the statutory cancellation period (sometimes known as the cooling-off period) to 14 calendar days.
  • Where a consumer has a right to cancel a contract, require the trader to provide the consumer with a model cancellation form.
  • Extend the cancellation period to, broadly, one year if the trader fails to provide certain pre-contract information.
  • Require online traders to make it clear (for example by labelling the payment button with “Order with obligation to pay”), where proceeding with the transaction will trigger a payment.
  • Require a consumer to return goods within 14calendar days of cancelling the contract.
  • Allow the trader to withhold a refund untilthe goods are returned (or evidence of their return is provided).
  • Allow the trader to deduct an amount for the diminished value of the goods when refunding payments.
  • Extend the list of ancillary contracts which will be automatically terminated on termination of a distance or off-premises contract.

For more information on consumer contracts, if you would like Harrison Drury to review your existing terms and conditions of business, or for any other aspect of commercial law, call Brett Cooper on 01524 548995

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