Shopping from home
If you are shopping from home, the three top tips are:
- Know your rights.
- Know your supplier.
- Keep records.
Your rights explained
Under the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations you have special rights as a consumer when you shop from home.
But remember, you still have your normal statutory rights if something goes wrong.
Normal statutory rights
If you receive faulty goods:
- If there is something wrong with what you buy, tell the supplier as soon as possible. Do this via email or phone and let them know why you are complaining.
- Keep a written note of a phone conversation.
- Keep a copy of any email exchange.
Please note that:
- If you sign an acceptance note when you receive the goods, this does not mean you have signed away your right to reject them.
- Allowing the seller to try to put faulty goods right also does not affect your rights. If the repair fails, you still have the right to reject the goods.
- If they are faulty, you should not be charged anything, including the cost of returning goods.
If you are buying a service, it should be carried out:
- With reasonable care and skill.
- Within a reasonable time - particularly if you have not agreed a completion date.
Your rights when shopping from home
When shopping from home, you additionally have the right to:
- Clear information about the goods or services before placing an order
- Written information about a purchase.
- A 'cooling off' period of seven working days, during which an order can be cancelled without any reason and a full refund made.
- A full refund if goods or services are not provided by an agreed date, or within 30 days of placing an order if no date was agreed.
- Protection against credit card fraud.
What isn't covered
Your home shopping rights only apply to goods or services you buy from traders who are organised to sell to you without face-to-face contact.
They do not apply to:
- Financial services like insurance or banking. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) regulates financial services businesses.
- Auctions. Auctioneers, unlike other sellers, can refuse to accept responsibility for the quality of the goods they auction. Read the conditions of sale with care. But, unless the seller is a private individual, the standard terms of the contract set out in the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1994 still apply.
- Vending machine purchases.
- Contracts involving the sale of land.
For financial services you may have rights under the Financial Services (Distance Marketing) Regulations 2004. Contact Consumer Direct for advice.
Most of these rights - and particularly the right to cancel - do not apply to:
- Unsealed audio or video tapes.
- Unsealed computer software.
- Betting games or lottery services.
- Newspapers and magazines.
- Food, drink or other goods intended for everyday consumption delivered by regular roundsmen - for example, deliveries of milk.
- Contracts for accommodation, transport, catering or leisure services, which are arranged for a specific time or date - for example, train, airline or concert tickets, or hotel bookings.
- Timeshare and package holidays.
You have some extra rights when you shop from home for some of these products and there are other consumer protection rules that apply.
Your rights outside the UK
Shopping in the EU
Always check the details before you shop. Your additional home shopping rights in the UK stem from a European Directive and they therefore should also apply in other European countries.
However, it may take longer for some European countries to amend their laws to provide you with equal protection. Also, their laws may not be exactly the same as those in the UK, so you should check details before you shop.
Shopping beyond the EU
In countries outside the European Union, your rights and responsibilities are likely to vary even more - so check these out too.
Always try to check out the small print and be aware that your rights and responsibilities are likely to vary even more. If anything does go wrong, it might be more difficult to pursue a complaint against a trader who's based outside the UK - and particularly outside the EU.
Key questions to bear in mind before you buy:
Will it work?
Standards and systems vary between countries. For example, make sure that electronic equipment like computer games or videos work on UK systems.
Is it a good deal?
Take into account the cost of converting currency or sending money outside the UK. If you're thinking about a long-term purchase like a loan or mortgage, remember that payments will increase if the pound falls against the currency you're planning to buy into.
Does it have a guarantee?
Check that it's valid in the UK and whether you'd have to return the product to the supplier's country if there is a problem.
Are there hidden extras?
Remember if you're ordering from outside the UK, you will probably have to pay extra customs duty and taxes. Customs and Excise can supply further information.
How easy will it be to sort out any problems?
If problems crop up, you might have to take legal action in the country of the seller.
Information kindly supplied by the Office of Fair Trading.
This factsheet is intended to provide general information only, and should not be taken as a full statement of the law on this subject. Phone your local Consumer Direct centre, or contact an alternative consumer support service if you need further or more detailed advice.
© Crown copyright 2004