About this series of articles
This article is the fifteenth in a series about the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.
The series explains how to apply the law to your business so that you remain compliant.
Retailers are not exempt from the Regulations
If you sell goods to consumers at your shop, you are classed as an on-premises trader.
On premises refers to some place from which you regularly work. This means it may be a small shop, a department store or a franchise outlet. Most types of products fall under the Regulations - although some, including newspapers, medicines and foodstuff, are exempt.
Of all the exemptions to the Consumer Contracts Regulations, the most significant for most retailers are any products that cost less than £42.
How you may be affected
Where the law does apply to your business, the only application is that you must provide certain information to a customer who buys goods from your shop.
The Regulations do not specify how this information has to be made available. The important thing is that you have to give this information before the customer buys. You can provide this information in one of several ways. Of course, the item itself provides some information about what it is and what it does. A simple item needs no further description.
But in addition to the product itself, information can be supplied in notices and price lists. The acid test is that this information must be clear and comprehensible to the customer before they enter into the contract.
We have noticed that very few retailers provide any more information that they did before the Regulations became law. Even the most technically complicated products are sold on the basis that the buyer will read instructions now hidden inside the box.
Every retailer must comply with the new information and order process requirements. The latter may include any additional delivery charge, payment procedure, service or commercial guarantee, delivery time, telephone number to handle complaints. In short all relevant information that is required to make your sale complete. However, the Regulations do not affect your business operations to a great extent. You may well be satisfying them already.
Cancellation and refunds
The rules relating to cancellation of contracts do not apply to sale from shops. You can continue to set your own terms.
Remember however, that we refer here only to on-premises sale. If you take a purchase order by phone or through your website and offer home delivery service, then the cancellation provisions do apply. You can either use different terms in each case or permit the same cancellation terms for all customers regardless of how they buy from you.
Here we provide a few examples to illustrate how the new rules regulate sales from shops:
You own a bakery and sell bakery products only. You are exempt because food stuff is not covered by the Regulations.
You sell mobile phones and laptops at your shop. These are complicated technical products. You must provide full information about each, before a sale is made: probably listing detailed information about the components. That means you can probably no longer rely on the information on the packaging, or the item itself.
You sell tailored wedding dresses. These are all prepared to the exact order of your customer. You still have to provide the information required by the Regulations but your customer has no cancellation right because the goods have been made or changed specially for her.
You have a furniture store. The Regulations apply to all sales except where you take orders to provide furniture to offices, hotels, and other commercial customers - because of course they are not consumers.
We recommend that you read how else the regulations affect your business next. Note that this is the first article in this series – if you have followed these articles from the beginning, you will have already read this article.
Unless you are exempt from the Regulations or are already compliant, you are likely to need to update your customer contract templates. These are likely to include your website's terms if you sell online and your offline customer contract if you sell offline.
If you have any questions about the Regulations, or would like help updating your contracts to comply, please ask us. We’d be delighted to help.