These new rules are in addition to existing consumer law protections. They introduce significant changes to the way traders must do business with consumers.

The rules provide additional protections and rights to consumers.

Some of the rules apply to on-premises contract (buying in a shop), some only to distance contracts (selling online) and some only to off-premises contracts. They amend provisions of the Sale of Goods Act 1893 and the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980.

Passing of risk provisions and delivery in sales contracts provisions have been amended. Rules have been inserted for unsolicited goods and services including that a consumer is exempted from having to provide consideration for such goods or services. Strict rules apply regarding fees that can be charged by traders for methods of payments, the costs of calls to help lines and additional payments requested from consumers.

The fees for use of a method of payment cannot exceed the cost to the trader. Consumers are natural persons buying outside of the person's business, trade, craft or profession. A trader is a natural or legal person acting in relation to the person's business, trade, craft or profession.

The new rules are set out in the European Union (Consumer Information, Cancellation and other Rights) Regulations 2013 (the Regulations). Link to the Regulations. Detailed definitions are set out in the Regulations that should be examined.

Information obligations

Save for some specific exclusions, detailed information must be provided to a consumer before the conclusion of a contract with a consumer. It is an offence to fail to provide the information. If the information is not furnished the consumer is not bound by the contract. The information must be provided in a clear and comprehensive manner.

The information to be provided for on-premises contracts is set out in Schedule 1 to the Regulations. The information to be provided for off-premises contracts and distance contracts is set out in Schedule 2 to the Regulations. The information must be on paper or if the consumer agrees in another durable medium.

The information must be legible and in plain intelligible language. Additional obligations apply to those who sell to consumers off premises and by distance sales which includes online sales. There is an obligation to provide the consumer with a copy or confirmation of the contract within a reasonable time of the contract being concluded as well as a cancellation form or other method to enable a consumer to notify a trader that he/she wishes to cancel the transaction. Consumers are not liable for costs and expenses where the information on such charges is not provided to the consumer – for example freight, delivery, postal charges or costs of returning the goods.

Rules governing calls to consumers are also set out in the Regulations. For online sales the website must clearly and legibly and at the latest at the beginning of the ordering process indicate whether there are any delivery restrictions and the accepted means of payment.