Consumer Rights Directive
The Consumer Rights Directive was implemented in the UK through the Consumer Contracts (Information Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013.
The regulations provide for information to be furnished to consumers in all types of contracts including distance on-premises and off-premises contracts and a right to withdraw from distance and off premises contracts.The supplier must generally perform when due or in any event within 30 days. If it fails to do so the consumer may call on him to perform and give additional time. If he does not perform the sums paid must be refunded.
A consumer is an individual acting for purposes only or mainly outside his trade, business or profession. Accordingly, a person may be treated as a consumer where the trade purposes are limited and are not predominant.
A distance contract is a contract concluded between a trader and consumer under an organised distance sales or service provision scheme without the simultaneous presence of the trader and consumer, through the exclusive use of one or more means of distance communications up to the time at which the contract is concluded.
The directive does not apply to
- financial services
- sale of real property
- package travel
Prior Information (all Contracts)
The provision of information is a key aspect of consumer protection. The information made available to consumers must be sufficiently clear and reliable so that they can make effective choices. There is a range of disclosure obligations. The required information is intended to make consumers aware of the property of the goods. In some cases, warnings are required.
Before concluding a contract, traders must provide to consumers, in clear, understandable language, information, such as:
- their identity and contact details,
- the product’s main characteristics, and
- the conditions that apply, including payment terms, delivery time, performance and duration of the contract and termination conditions.
In shops, only information which is not already obvious must be provided.
Off Premises Contracts
Information requirements, particularly on the right of withdrawal, are more detailed for postal, telephone or online contracts and off-premises purchases (where a trader visits a consumer’s home). Before entering an off premises contract, the consumer must receive clear and comprehensive information about the service or goods and the right to withdraw.
This applies to contracts over the internet but also telephone, e-mail, and other remote communication. It covers doorstep sales and sales made generally other than at the trader’s a fixed place of business. The rules do not apply to financial services package holidays and contracts relating to immovable property, which there are separate rules.
There are partial exemptions for goods intended for consumption in the household supplied by regular agreement and contracts relating to tourism and transport.
Prior to the conclusion of an off premises contracts, the consumer must be provided with clear and comprehensible information concerning
- identity and address of the supplier
- characteristics of goods and services and their price
- arrangements for payments delivery or performance
- the existence of a right to withdraw
- the period in which the offer remains valid and minimum duration of the contract were applicable
- cost of using the means of distance communication
In the case of telephone calls, the identity and commercial purpose must be made clear at the beginning of the transaction. Information must be given in good faith.
The consumers must receive written confirmation in a durable medium (e.g. a pdf e-mail attachment at the time of performance of the contract. The following information must be given in writing as well
- arrangements for exercising rights of withdrawal
- a place to which complaints may be addressed
- information regarding after-sale service
- conditions under which contracts may be terminated
In the case of a distance contract it must be provided in a form appropriate to the distance communication. In every case the information has to be in plain and intelligible language and where written, must be legible.
The required information includes all the information otherwise and also information regarding
- costs of using means of distance communication
- where there is a right of withdrawal, the conditions time limit and procedure and a model form of withdrawal
- details of the cost of returning goods after withdrawal where relevant
- any liability to pay reasonable costs of the trader upon withdrawal
- an explanation if there is no right of withdrawal by the consumer or where the consumer may lose the right in certain circumstances
- the existence of codes of conduct
- any applicable minimum duration, for consumers obligations applicable
- existence and conditions of payments and financial guarantees to be paid provided by the consumer
- where applicable, existence of alternative dispute resolution
Right to Cancel Off Premises Contracts
Contracts entered between traders and customers away from the place of business may be cancelled within a certain period by the consumer.
Off premises contracts may be
- those concluded in the simultaneous physical presence of the parties at a premises other than the trader’s premises
- concluded on the trader’s premises by means of distance communication
- the consumer had been immediately before, addressed by the trader in the above circumstances or
- concluded during an excursion organised by the trader for the purpose of promoting or selling the goods or services in question
Consumers can withdraw from distance and off-premises contracts within 14 days of the goods’ delivery or conclusion of the service contract, subject to certain exceptions, without any explanation or cost. A standard withdrawal form provided by the seller suffices. If the consumer is not made aware of their rights, the withdrawal period is extended by 12 months.
The withdrawal period commences
- on the date of contract in the case of a services contract.
- in the case of a sales contract, the date upon which the consumer or other appointed recipient receives the goods
- in the case of standard utilities or digital content, the date of supply or download.
If the trader does not provide the information in relation to the right of cancellation, the right of withdrawal is extended. If it is not provided at all, the period is 12 months from the end of the withdrawal period which would have applied. Otherwise, it is 14 days from the date of provision of the information
The regulations provide a model form of withdrawal notice. The consumer may use that form or give other unequivocal indication of his decision to withdraw. The withdrawal terminates the obligations of the parties to perform the contract. It cancels ancillary contracts.
If the contract is terminated, the consumer is required to hand or deliver back the goods without undue delay and in any event within 14 days. He is liable for the direct costs of returning the goods if this was provided for in the initial contract with the advance information. If the goods have been reduced in value due to the consumer’s handling (other than to the extent necessary to establish the nature characteristics and functioning of the goods), the consumer is liable for the sum. This is unless the trader failed to give the required notice of the right of withdrawal.
In the case of a standard utilities contract which commences during the withdrawal period at the consumer’s request, the consumer is liable for a charge for the services to a certain extent.
Traders may not charge consumers in relation to the use of a given payment method.
There is provision for enforcement of the regulations by way of injunction and by other means.
The supplier must repay the amounts paid by the customer within 30 days. There are certain types of contract to which the right of withdrawal does not apply. Credit agreements concluded with the supplier or a third-party on the basis of the agreement may also be cancelled
The right to withdraw is lot if the customer requests the service to be performed during the withdrawal period and it is fully performed within the time, if he acknowledges that he will lose that right.
The rights of withdrawal do not apply where goods are supplied to the consumer specification or are clearly personalised. It does not apply to goods that are liable to deteriorate or expire rapidly and which are not suitable for return for reasons of health and hygiene
Exemptions apply for rapidly perishable goods, sealed goods opened by the consumer which cannot be returned for health or hygiene reasons, and hotel reservations or car rentals which are tied to specific dates.
There is an exception in relation to off premises contracts, where the trader attends at the consumer’s request to carry out immediate repairs and maintenance.
No unjustified payment costs or additional charges may be applied. Traders must not charge consumers fees that are more than the cost to the trader of the type of payment involved.
When phoning a trader to enquire or complain about a contract, the consumer must not pay more than the basic telephone rate.
Traders must have a consumer’s express consent when offering additional paid-for services. Pre-ticked boxes on an order form may not be used for such payments
If unsolicited goods are supplied, then the consumer’s failure to comply does not constitute consent.
The use by suppliers of automated call devices requires prior consent of the consumer. Other distance communication may be objected to.
There must be provision for appeal before the courts or administrative bodies in the events of dispute. Member states may adopt more stringent provisions.
The selling prices and unit price must be unambiguously and easily identifiable and clearly legible for all products offered by businesses to the consumer. This must include the final price including VAT and all other taxes. The unit price need not be indicated if it is the same as the selling price.
States may decide not to apply the rules if products are supplied in the course of the provision of a service or if sales take place by auction.
In the case of products sold and bought, the unit price only is sufficient. An advertisement mentioning the selling price must also indicate the unit price. States may waive the obligation to indicate the unit price where it would not be useful or liable to cause confusion. In the case of non-food products state may determine the products to which the obligation to indicate the unit price will apply.
States must inform persons regarding the legislation. They must lay down and provide systems of penalties for infringement of the provision.
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