Distance and online selling rules


Distance selling is to sell goods or services through digital TV, by mail order, online or by phone or text message. If you are a distance seller there are certain rules that you must follow, including extra rules if you are selling goods or services online.

Providing information before an order takes place

Before selling to a customer at a distance (including online), you must provide them with certain information.

This includes:

  • your business name, contact details and address
  • a description of your goods or services, including what digital content does (for example, the language it's in or how to update software)
  • the total price, including all taxes and how to pay
  • delivery arrangements, costs and how long goods will take to arrive
  • the minimum length of their contract and billing period
  • conditions for deposits, financial guarantees and ending contracts
  • how they can cancel (including a standard form), any cancellation costs they may incur and when they lose the right to cancel

You must provide this information in an easy-to-understand format that can be kept by the consumer, eg an email or printed document.

For further details, see providing customers with contract information.

Right to cancel

You must tell the customer they can cancel their order up to 14 days after their order is delivered. They don't need to give a reason for cancelling.

If you don't tell the customer about their right to cancel, they can cancel at any time in the next 12 months. If you tell them about the right to cancel during these 12 months, they have 14 days to cancel from when you told them.

For more information, including exemptions to the right to cancel, see right to cancel consumer contracts.

Providing information after an order is placed

You must:

  • provide a copy of the contract on paper, by email or another format the customer can save for future reference
  • provide the copy of the contract no later than when the goods are delivered
  • deliver the goods within 30 days, unless you've agreed otherwise with the customer

Online selling rules

There are some additional rules that apply when distance selling takes place online:

Before an order is placed, you must:

  • make it clear to customers they have to pay when they place an order (for example, a 'pay now' button) and how they can pay
  • list the steps involved in a customer placing an order and let customers correct errors in their order
  • let customers know what languages are available
  • give your email address, VAT number (if your business is registered for VAT) and state any charges for contact you, eg by telephone

See selling online: consumer contracts.

Selling digital services

There are extra rules for selling digital services which customers download or stream online, including:

  • computer games
  • in-game purchases
  • TV and film
  • books
  • computer programs
  • mobile phone apps

See consumer rights when buying digital content.

Downloads and streaming services

If you supply downloads or streaming services, you must:

  • get the customer to confirm before they download or stream content that they are aware they'll lose their 14 day right to cancel
  • get the customer to agree to an instant download before they start the download
  • include this information in your confirmation of the contract, along with the other pre-contract information

If you don't follow these rules, the customer will keep their 14 day right to cancel without paying.