Distance Selling Regulations – Are you providing your customers with sufficient information?

Wednesday 27th February 2013

If you sell goods or services over the internet, or over the telephone, you need to be aware of the law on distance selling. Most retailers are aware that they need to provide specified information to customers; however, a recent case has decided how that information should be provided to a customer.

In the European case of Content Services Ltd v Bundesarbeitskammer (a case based on European law, which contains similar provisions to the UK regulation) the seller made the relevant information (which in this case related to the customer’s ability to cancel the contract) available through a hyperlink which was (a) brought to the attention of the consumer at the time the order was placed; and (b) in a confirmation email after the order was placed.

It was decided that, making information available on a webpage, which the customer could only access by clicking on a hyperlink shown when placing the order, was not sufficient for the consumer to receive the information in a manner specified in the regulation. It was held that under the regulation, a customer should be provided with certain information (e.g. withdrawal information) without having to take any specific action on their part.

It was also decided that the display of information on a webpage via a hyperlink does not put the information in a sufficiently “durable medium”, as the seller, could change the information at any time, which would mean that the customer wouldn’t be able to:

  • Record and store the information for a sufficiently long period to enable him to enforce his rights;
  • Access the information; and
  • Reproduce the information without change.

As a result the seller was in breach of its obligations under the distance selling regulations.

In practice, traders operating online, or by other distance methods should ensure that they are complying with the distance selling regulations by fully setting out the required information in an email sent prior to, or on delivery or on a delivery note sent with the goods.