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E-Commerce Website Terms and Conditions Consumer Protection Update

May 2014

In response to legislative changes taking effect on 13th June 2014, Simply-Docs has updated its portfolio of business-to-consumer E-Commerce Website Terms and Conditions. Central to the changes are a new 14 calendar day cancellation or “cooling-off” period (increased from the current 7 working days) and new requirements to provide key information about a range of factors including key characteristics of goods, services or content; pricing breakdowns; delivery and/or service provision arrangements; and the aforementioned cooling-off period.

General details of the changes to the law are provided below. E-Commerce website conditions templates from Simply-Docs now contain clearer provisions explaining to customers how and when a contract is formed, an outline of the information the customer will receive about their order, and detailed information on the applicable cooling-off or cancellation rights. In addition, albeit unrelated to the new regulations, each updated template has received a new data protection clause giving clear details to customers which personal data is collected and held, and how that data is used.

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013

New distance selling rules, applying to business-to-consumer transactions are set to take effect on 13th June 2014, meaning that a number of traders including those selling goods, services and digital content online will need to update their terms of business soon. Whilst business-to-business transactions fall outside of the remit of the new legislation, those selling to business customers and consumer customers must at least ensure compliance with regard to consumers.

The new obligations applying to traders that will apply to those selling goods, services or digital content to consumers include the following:

- Pre-contract information requirements including details about the seller, the product or service and the customers’ cancellation rights. Such information must also be communicated to the customer post-contract using a “durable medium”.

- E-Commerce customers must expressly acknowledge that placing an order implies an obligation to pay. Order buttons or other key wording that forms part of an e-commerce ordering process must, therefore, make this clear.

- Customers have a 14 calendar day cooling-off period during which they may cancel and receive a full refund. In the case of goods, this period begins on the date on which the customer takes possession of the goods. In the case of services and digital content, the period begins on the date that the contract between the seller and the customer is formed. There are important exceptions for certain types of goods (e.g. perishable goods and personalised items) and for services or digital content that will begin or be made available before the 14 day period has elapsed.

- A model cancellation form is set out in the regulations which traders must make available to customers wishing to exercise their cancellation rights. Traders may also continue to use their own forms (but must nevertheless make the model form available should customers wish to use it). A template model form will be available from Simply-Docs before the 13th June. (Please note that while the form will be placed in the Business document folder it will also be available as a free document).

- Pre-checked options boxes that incur additional charges are no longer permitted. Customers must expressly agree to any such options.

- Customer helplines must offer basic rate (i.e. 01, 02 or 03) telephone numbers. Premium rate (e.g. 0845) may still be used, but the basic rate number must be displayed with equal prominence. Other types of helpline, e.g. technical support, are not affected and may remain premium rate.

We intend to publish detailed guidance notes by mid-June, in time for the changes to the law to take effect.

The contents of this Newsletter are for reference purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Independent legal advice should be sought in relation to any specific legal matter.

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