Changes to consumer law to come into force

New consumer regulations (the Regulations) will come into force on June 13 that will supersede the current law for contracts between retailers and consumers on or after this date.

Retailers need to update their processes and systems so that they comply with the new changes under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013.

Changes that alter the way that online retailers operate will be included and potential amendments may need to be made to terms and conditions along with websites.

The key changes are outlined in the rest of the article.

Businesses selling to consumers must provide certain information in accordance with the instructions annexed to the Regulations.

The Regulations provide standard pre-contract information for on-premises contracts as well as distance and off-premises contracts. If this information is not provided the trader will commit a criminal offence.

If the trader fails to provide the pre-contractual information specified the cancellation period will be extended to 12 months.

Helplines should not be provided at a premium, when a trader operates a helpline for customer’s enquiries in relation to their placed orders, the cost of the call should be at the basic rate.

Premium rate 09 numbers and costly 084 and 087 numbers should not be used.

Goods should be delivered without undue delay, the maximum period for delivery is 30 days unless the consumer agrees otherwise.

Cancellation periods will increase from 7 days to 14 days, when goods are ordered on-line the minimum cancellation period that must be offered will rise from 7 to 14 days.

Prescribed cancellation form — The Regulations provide a cancellation form that retailers must make available to consumers.

This does not need to be provided with every transaction by way of a hard copy however, it should be available for consumers to download on-line from the retailer.

Retailers should ensure that the prescribed form is available from the 13th June 2014.

Specific requirements for on-line contracts mean that when a consumer places an order on-line the retailer should provide the following information in prominent position directly before an order is placed: the main characteristics of the goods or service; the total price, or if this cannot be determined at the time, the method that will be used for calculating the price; information on delivery charges; the duration of the contract.

Retailers must also ensure that the consumer, when placing the order online, explicitly acknowledges that the order implies an obligation to pay. Website buttons that need to be pressed by the consumer to place an order need to be clearly labelled ‘order with an obligation to pay’.

Digital Content will also be affected by the regulation changes. The Regulations provide for developments in technology and the sale of digital media on-line, which may include the sale of tangible media such as CD’s and DVD’s as well as non-tangible media like downloadable software and music.

Pre-contractual information for the sale of digital media has to include the following: details of the functionality of digital content, for example, any technical restrictions that may be present; and compatibility information should be provided, for example, if the contract is in relation to software, traders should state which operating systems it is compatible with.

Digital media supplied on a tangible medium will be treated as a sales contract and the usual cancellation rules will apply, meaning the goods would need to be returned to the trader within 14 days.

The consumer may lose their right to cancel the contract if sealed audio recordings, video recordings or software is unsealed after delivery.

If the digital content is supplied in a non-tangible form the content should not be made available to the consumer for 14 days unless the consumer consents to immediate delivery and acknowledges that any right to cancel the contract may be lost.

Jaunita Gobby, Director of Legal Eye said of the changes: “Law firms need to ensure their client care packs are updated with these new regulations and there are some tricky exemptions to consider! It is a heavily debated subject at the moment with many different views. An important area for firms to consider and prioritise."

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