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How to Obey Distance Selling Regulations
The Distance Selling regulations apply to online retail and mail order stores who are based in the UK and Europe, and are designed to protect the customer and enhance their rights. By understanding what these regulations say and how they apply to your business, you can provide the best possible service to your customers.
Decide if the distance selling regulations (DSRs) apply to your business.If you sell anything to a customer who has not physically examined the item, but has seen pictures in a catalogue, been sold an item by telephone or has purchased it from a website, then the distance selling regulations apply to you.
Check the exceptions.DSRs do not apply to auctions, such as you might find on eBay, unless the listing is "Buy It Now". Additionally, the DSRs do not apply to items that are personalised, custom-made or perishable, such as flowers.
Understand your responsibilities.The DSRs clearly state that a customer is entitled to a full refund for any reason if they notify the business within seven working days of receiving their package. The item does not need to be faulty. If the customer wishes to return the item, then the business is legally bound to give a full refund, including any postage that the customer may have paid.
If the customer does not like an item, they are often responsible for the cost of returning the item to the business.It is essential that the business makes this condition clear in their policies.
Should an item be faulty, then the business must offer a full refund, including all postage costs to return the item to the business, or a replacement, whichever the customer prefers.
As the law stands, this also applies to pierced jewellery, even if it has been tried on and placed through a piercing hole.Most customers will not attempt to return such items in the current climate of blood borne disease, but should they request a full refund the business is legally obliged to give it. The pierced item can not be sold as new once it is returned, and should it be contaminated and sold again, the business will be liable. This part of the law is (as of 2011) under review in the European Courts, but amendments are unlikely to be verified before 2014.
Build your site with distance selling regulations in mind:to abide by the DSRs, you must provide the full name, physical address (no PO Boxes) and email address of your trading company so that it is easy to contact you.
Additionally, you must adequately describe the goods or services you are selling, clearly indicate your prices including relevant taxes, explain your payment and delivery arrangements, as well as your returns policies.If this information is absent from your site, you may find yourself explaining this lack to Trading Standards or other legal bodies.
Placing this information on your website is a good first step, but all details must also be provided in a durable format, such as email or on printed paper.The best way to keep your customers happy and abide by the distance selling regulations is to print out your policies and business details, and include them in the dispatched parcel. This will help ensure your customer has all the information about their rights that they need.
By studying the literature on Distance Selling Regulations with care, you can make sure that your distance selling business is abiding by the law and giving your customers the best possible service.
- Check the Office of Fair Trading documentation for full, up-to-date information on the distance selling regulations.
- If you are unsure of any of the regulations and how they apply to your business, then please contact your local trading standards bureau for their interpretation.
- The law is always in motion, and many aspects of the distance selling regulations are under review. Keep up-to-date with all the relevant changes to your business by checking the guidelines at the Office of Fair Trading.
- Distance Selling Regulations apply to customers and businesses in the UK and in Europe. Businesses and customers outside of these areas should seek legal advice on their rights and responsibilities.
- This document does not constitute legal advice. Please refer to the documentation for your countries selling regulations for a full explanation of your rights and responsibilities.
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