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Selling on online marketplaces best practice

Distance selling regulations

In the sixth of a series of best practice articles, we offer guidance on some of the fundamental elements to help you trade on online marketplaces successfully. The focus for this article: Distance selling regulations 

An overview

If you are selling as a business via an online marketplace you must comply with UK Distance Selling Regulations, sometimes shortened to DSR (not to be confused with Detailed Seller Ratings on eBay).

A commonly cited exception is auction listings on sites such as eBay. However the regulations still apply to any item bought using the ‘Buy It Now’ button or an equivalent checkout process, even if the item is also listed as an auction.

The regulations require you to offer a minimum standard of information on your listings, such as the full price including all taxes and delivery charges, your contact details, and your customers' rights regarding cancellation.

Online marketplaces will display much of this information on your behalf, such as on your seller profile page, but the responsibility lies with the seller to check that the information is complete and accurate.

Under the Distance Selling Regulations you must also give your customers the right to cancel or withdraw from the sale. This effectively amounts to a "No questions asked" guarantee to refund a purchase, and is intended to give consumers the same opportunity to examine the items as they would in a shop.

It is good practice to use this to your advantage in your listings. Saying something like, "Buy with confidence: 7 day NO QUESTIONS ASKED refund policy" will give your customers more confidence than not saying anything at all, and you are not giving away any more protection than your customers are entitled to anyway.

There are a small number of exceptions to the Distance Selling Regulations but in any case they represent a good code of practice even where they do not apply. It is also worth noting that each online marketplace most likely has a similar minimum code of practice. This is in addition to the DSR and does not replace or override it.

Full information regarding the Distance Selling Regulations can be found on the Trading Standards site at http://dshub.tradingstandards.gov.uk/ and information on the distance selling of food provision in EU1169 / 2011, article 14 can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/82663/consult-fic-guidance-20121116.pdf. 

If you would like more information on selling on online marketplaces, read our full guide for selling on online marketplaces.