Selling online: consumer contracts

Online selling laws to protect consumers


Consumers who make online purchases benefit from an increasing range of laws and regulations concerning sales and services contracted face to face or remotely.

Selling goods to consumers

The UK has established a minimum level of consumer protection for the purchase of goods.

It stipulates that the supplier must sell goods:

  • that comply with their description
  • have the same quality and performance characteristics of samples or models
  • are fit for any purpose accepted by the supplier

The consumer has six years from the delivery date to seek redress for faults demonstrably present at the time of delivery, of goods which should have lasted for this length of time.

Consumer contracts

Consumer contract rules apply to most contracts made between suppliers and purchasers. This includes sales where both parties are not physically present in the same place at the same time. This covers email and internet contracts, as well as contracts resulting from press advertisements, mail order catalogues, digital television or those made by telephone.

The legislation gives the consumer a cooling-off period of 14 working days to cancel the contract.

Financial services

Financial services sold at a distance are regulated by The Financial Services Regulations 2004.

'Financial services' are defined as banking, insurance, investment or payment services.
Consumer purchases must receive pre-purchase information about the service. They have a cooling-off period of up to 30 days, depending upon the financial service purchased.

There are some products that consumers do not have the right to cancel.