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PN 33/02 30 May 2002
Following discussions between the OFT and the industry, Amazon.co.uk and BOL.com have agreed to include delivery charges in refunds that they provide to customers who return goods within the legal cooling off period.
Under the Distance Selling Regulations consumers have the right to a cooling off period of seven working days after receipt on most goods. The OFT view is that the normal postage and packing charges for the delivery, but not the return, of distance sales purchases must always be refunded in addition to the cost of the goods when orders are cancelled during the cooling off period.
Welcoming the agreement of the two companies to follow the OFT's interpretation of the Regulations, John Vickers, Director General of Fair Trading said:
'The Distance Selling Regulations give consumers the security to buy from home, confident that they can change their mind once they have received and seen their goods. Consumers are entitled to a refund of normal delivery charges when goods are returned.'
The OFT is currently in negotiation with a number of other companies under the Distance Selling Regulations regarding the refunding of delivery charges.
1. The Distance Selling Regulations came into force on 31 October 2000 and give new rights to consumers in the area of home shopping. The main thrust of the legislation is to give consumers confidence in purchasing goods and services where there is no face to face contact with the seller, and to ensure that all traders operating distance selling schemes meet the basic requirements laid down in the Regulations.
2. Under the Regulations consumers shopping for goods and services by telephone, mail order, fax, digital television and the internet and other types of distance communication now have the right to: clear information, a cooling off period and further protection against fraudulent use of a credit card.
3. For goods, the cooling off period begins when the contract is concluded, and ends seven working days from the day after the consumer receives the goods.
4. The OFT (and Trading Standards Departments) has a duty to consider any complaint about a possible breach of the regulations. Where it is considered that a breach has occurred he has the power to apply for an injunction in the courts against the responsible person in order to obtain compliance with the Regulations. The OFT cannot take up an individual's dispute with a seller nor can he obtain redress for them.
5. The Regulations apply to almost all types of home shopping but there are exceptions: business to business contracts, financial services, auctions, contracts for the sale of land, and vending machines. Some of the Regulations will not apply to: deliveries of food and beverages by regular roundsmen, contracts for transport, accommodation, catering or leisure services provided on specific dates or within specified periods, and timeshare and package holidays.
6. In this press release the functions of the Director General of Fair Trading (DGFT) under the Regulations are for simplicity described as the functions of 'the OFT'. Indeed the Enterprise Bill proposes to replace the office of the DGFT with the OFT, to which would be transferred the DGFT's functions.
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