Distance selling

Advice on distance selling for businesses

Businesses selling either goods or services to consumers via the following channels must comply with the Distance Selling Regulations:

  • website
  • email
  • telephone
  • fax
  • mobile phone
  • text message
  • mail order catalogue
  • television shopping channel 
  • interactive TV. 

It's all about treating customers fairly, and if you don't comply with the legal requirements you may not be able to enforce the terms of the contract. 

Providing information for customers

The Distance Selling Regulations say that you must provide your customers with key information, clearly and comprehensibly, before they make a decision to buy from you.

This is so that they can make an informed choice about making a purchase. 

The information that you must provide includes:

  • your identity
  • a description of the goods or services 
  • the price including all taxes 
  • delivery costs  
  • arrangements for delivery (within 30 days of orders, unless the contract specifies otherwise)
  • how payments can be made 
  • your full geographic address
  • customers' right to cancel (see below for further details)
  • the cost of contacting you if a premium-rate phone number is used
  • how long the offer or the price remains valid
  • whether or not alternative goods or services to those ordered may be provided if those ordered by the customer are unavailable.

Distance-selling resources

The above is only a summary of the information you must provide. More detailed information is set out on the Business Companion website.

You can also use the Business Companion website to download information and materials to copy and paste into your existing documents, or you can link to them directly from your website or intranet. 

The website also has a selection of training materials to help you and your staff to comply with the law.

Cooling-off period

Consumers have an unconditional right to cancel an order. However the customer must inform you within these time limits:

  • goods: seven working days after the date the goods were delivered
  • services: seven working days after you have concluded the contract.

The consumer must take reasonable care of goods and return them to you.

If a consumer decides to cancel, you must refund their money in full (including delivery charges) as soon as possible, and at the latest within 30 days of receiving written notice of the consumer's decision to cancel.

The consumer may, at your discretion, only be charged for the cost of returning the goods.

Exceptions to the right to cancel 

The right to cancel doesn't apply to all goods and services. It excludes the following:

  • online auctions
  • vending machine sales
  • buying land
  • financial services
  • goods made to a consumer's specifications
  • security-sealed audio, video or software which has been opened
  • newspapers, periodicals or magazines
  • betting, gaming or lottery services
  • goods that may deteriorate rapidly, for example flowers
  • newspapers or magazines.

Contact the Trading Standards Business Advice Line

020 8921 8223