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Selling on online marketplaces best practice

Consumer contracts 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: Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.

An overview

If you are selling as a business via an online marketplace you must comply with the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013. These came into force on 13th June 2014. For contracts entered into on or after 13 June 2014, these regulations supersede the now obsolete Distance Selling Regulations 2000.

A commonly cited exception to these regulations are 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 Consumer Contracts 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: 14 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 Consumer Contracts Regulations, however 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 Consumer Contracts Regulations and does not replace or override them.

Full information regarding the Consumer Contracts Regulation 2013 can be found here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/3134/contents/made

Additional information on the distance selling of food can be found here: https://www.food.gov.uk/business-industry/caterers/startingup/distanceguide

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