The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has suggested three changes to the cooling-off period offered to phone, internet and catalogue shoppers under the Distance Selling Regulations (DSR).
DSR cover goods and services that are not sold face-to-face but over the phone, internet or by catalogue. The proposed changes are designed to help both consumers and businesses.
The cooling-off period usually applies for seven days from when a contract is made for a service or goods, or from when the goods are received.
If the service starts before the end of the seven days, the cooling-off period ends when the service starts. For example, when hiring a car, the right to cancel ends when the car is driven away.
But because the DSR do not cover some goods and services, such as buying at auction, financial services or sporting events, this can cause confusion.
As a result, the DTI wants to make traders responsible for telling consumers at time of sale if the goods or services are exempt from the cooling-off period.
The DTI also wants to give consumers the right to cancel a contract by phone as well as in writing or by email.
In order not to burden businesses, it is also looking at cutting the business costs of informing consumers.
Currently, the trader must inform the customer of the cooling-off period in writing before the contract is agreed.
The proposal is to change this and allow the trader to tell the consumer in writing while the service is being used.
The consultation will run for three months, after which the DTI will examine the responses and decide what amendments to make.
Online retailer Dabs.com said the changes are positive. Marketing director Jonathan Wall told vnunet.com: "We welcome any initiative that increases consumer confidence in buying via the mail-order model."
The DTI's Consultation on proposed changes to the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 can be found here.
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