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More protection for consumers

21st May 2014

Read about some of the new protections:

- Ban on excessive additional costs to use debit or credit cards
- Ban on helpline charges over basic rate
- More protection for consumers buying at the retailer’s

- New rules for distance selling
- New rules for ‘off-premises’ contracts

Ban on excessive additional costs to use debit or credit cards

Since the 6 April 2014, businesses can only charge you what it actually costs them if you use a credit or debit card to make a purchase. Hopefully this will prevent businesses from loading these methods of payment with additional charges and bring down the cost of using credit or debit cards for transactions.

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Ban on helpline charges over basic rate.

Retailers will no longer be able to charge “premium” telephone rates for their helplines. If you’ve entered into a contract with a business (e.g. bought something from them) and need to call their helpline about it, you should not be charged more than the basic telephone call rate.

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More protection for consumers buying at the retailer’s premises

These new protections do not apply to contracts which involve ‘day –to –day’ transactions and are performed immediately. So buying a chocolate bar at a newsagent isn’t covered by the new regulations, but less regular purchases or purchases to be delivered later will be e.g. furniture, white goods, kitchens etc.
Under the new regulations consumers must be provided with specific information including:
•    The main characteristics of the goods or services.
•    The identity of the trader.
•    The total price of the goods and/or services including taxes.

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New rules for distance selling

The ‘cooling off period’ where you have the right to cancel a ‘distance’ contract is being extended from 7 days to 14 days. The main exemptions to this are personalised goods, or goods which will perish or deteriorate rapidly. There are other exemptions, including services which have already been performed.

You have to given specific information before you can enter into a ‘distance’ contract. This includes:
•    The main characteristics of the goods or services.
•    The identity of the trader.
•    The total price, including any taxes.
•    Any additional delivery charges and any other costs.

Where an order is finalized by clicking a button (as on most websites) it must be clear that clicking the button creates an obligation on you to pay.

If you withdraw from or cancel a contract, the retailer must reimburse all payments (except non-standard delivery costs) within 14 days. You must return any goods within 14 days of cancelling the contract and the retailer must reimburse you within 14 days of receiving the goods.

“Pre-ticked” boxes for additional payments will be banned. Now if you want a more expensive delivery option or additional insurance, you’ll have to tick the box yourself rather than it being automatically ticked. Now you don’t need to remember to “un-tick” the “pre-ticked” boxes!

Where you have a right to cancel a contract, the trader should provide you with a model cancellation form.

If the trader fails to provide certain pre-contract information, the cancellation period can be extended up to a year in certain circumstances.

Where a distance contract has been entered into, businesses must provide you (no later than the date on which the goods are to be delivered and before the services are to be performed) confirmation of the contract (including specific information) by email or on paper.
The business may deduct an amount of money from the refund if the value of the good has diminished, e.g. if the goods are worth less because you have used them.

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New rules for ‘off-premises’ contracts.

Off-premises contracts are where the consumer enters a contract somewhere other than the business’s premises. This could be in a business park or any other venue that isn’t a place the business normally trades. For example, it would apply to contracts enacted in a consumer’s home or at a trade fair.

The new rules for ‘off-premises’ contracts are similar to those for distance contracts, although the information that has to be provided to the consumer is slightly different. The information requirements do not apply to day-to-day transactions which are performed immediately, and there is no requirement to provide information where it is already apparent from the context of the transaction.

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If you have any questions about any of the recent changes
or any other legal query, you can give us a call on 01275-378715.

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