Distance Selling – An Arm’s Length Guide for You & Your Business

If your business sells goods or services to customers at a distance – for example online, by mail order or over the phone – you need to comply with specific legislation protecting the buyer’s rights.

Distance selling is the sale of goods or services to consumers where the contract is made between the business and the consumer, exclusively through one or more means of distance communication (such as telephone, mail order, email, or the internet).

Any business that engages in selling its products or services, to customers from home must comply with The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 (CCR). The CCR sets out a number of fundamental requirements that you and your business need to adhere to if you are engaging customers at a distance.

The key areas are:

– Providing consumers with certain information before they make a purchase, such as the identity of the business, the main characteristics of the goods or services, the price of the goods or services, and the cost of delivery.

– Confirming the contract in writing (such as email) within a reasonable period after the consumer places an order.

– Giving consumers the right to cancel their order within 14 days of receiving the goods or services, without giving any reason.

– Reimbursing consumers within 14 days of receiving their cancellation notice.

– Payment terms must be clearly noted and readily available. Any ‘call to action’ to buy online or at a distance must be clearly labelled. For example, ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Pay Now’.

The CCR is not the only piece of legislation that governs your business when selling goods and services at a distance. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) works in conjunction with the CCR to ensure that any goods sold at a distance are fit for purpose and are as described.

There are 4 key points you must consider if a customer wants to cancel the contract:

Right to cancel

If you are engaging in distance selling, it is incumbent on the business to inform the customer that they can cancel their order up to 14 days after it has been delivered. In these instances, the customer does not have to give a reason for cancelling the order, they only need to express that they want to cancel.


If a customer isn’t told about their right to cancel, they can cancel the contract at any time in the next 12 months but if your business informs them about the right to cancel during the 12 months, they have 14 days to cancel the contract from when they were told about their rights. A deduction from the value of the goods can be made if you consider the customer has handled the goods excessively.

Right to refund

If the customer cancels the contract, the company must reimburse the full purchase price within 14 days of receiving the notice of cancellation. It is important to note for businesses that if the goods are faulty, the business must give a full refund up to 30 days after the item was purchased. If the goods are found to be faulty (up to 6 months after purchase) and the goods cannot be repaired or replaced, the customer can also ask for a full refund in most cases.

Full or partial refund

You can’t deduct money if the goods have been removed from the packaging or tried on. This is because customers who purchase at a distance are entitled to handle goods in the same way they would if they were in a shopping centre, hardware store or supermarket. If a buyer decides to cancel a purchase because they’ve changed their mind, you can charge for the cost of return, only if this cost was stipulated in the pre-contract information (many businesses add this into the order confirmation or before checkout). If the goods are faulty, your business must pay for the costs of returning the item and refund the cost of the original delivery at the basic rate.

What happens if I think my business does not comply with the distance selling regulations?

Businesses that fail to comply with the distance selling regulations may be liable for a number of penalties, including:

– An unlimited fine.

– A prison sentence of up to two years.

– Compensation to consumers for any losses they suffer because of the non-compliance.

If you require any advice or assistance regarding compliance , the best approach would be to discuss this with your lawyer in the first instance. Our team is on hand to provide all levels of support.

Whether you or your business are new to distance selling or have been conducting business at a distance for years, our expert corporate and commercial team are on hand to offer advice and assistance. Contact a member of the team today on 01204 527777 (Bolton) or 01254 268790 (Blackburn) or by email enquiries@kbl.co.uk .