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Distance Selling: Does your website comply?

Is Your Website ReadyShopping online, by mail order, over the phone or through a TV shopping channel has never been more popular. It can be uber convenient and much cheaper than the high street. But there are drawbacks to not being able to see first-hand the items you are buying – which is why customers are given extra protection.

New regulations on the way we buy items online came into force on June 13th, changing consumers’ rights and offering even greater protection.

So if you haven’t considered how this might affect your business, you’d better act fast, because if you sell via the internet and if you’re are not ready, failure to comply might make your contracts unenforceable.

But just what ere these distance selling regulations and how do they affect you?

You can view all the details of the changes provided by the Department for Business and Innovation Skills by clicking here and below is a brief summary of what changes have been made;

  • Minimum statutory cooling off period now 14 calendar days, changing from 7 days
  • A 12 month period for the consumer to cancel if the business fails to provide information on the cancellation right (currently 3 months)
  • Introduction of a model cancellation form for distance sales (although cancellation will still be valid if the consumer uses a different form)
  • Ban on default pre-ticked boxes for additional payments
  • Obligation to deliver goods within 30 days unless otherwise agreed
  • Changes to the mandatory pre-contract information to be provided
  • Ban on premium rate helplines for order queries

So what do you need to do now to ensure you and your website is adhering to these new regulations?

As an online trader you need to review your terms and processes immediately to ensure they are fully compatible with the new Distance Selling Regulations.

But in case you are still unsure about what you need to do, or are concerned about how these new regulations affect your website – here’s some simple advice.

Embrace the Change

Put simply, you have to comply whether it’s worth it or not.

And although these changes may be looked upon as just more annoying beurocratic red tape it could be that the new laws actually benefit your business, as the results are likely to pay back dividends in terms of increased customer confidence and, in turn, improved conversion rates.

Inform Your Customers

Terms and ConditionsIf you have been trading online for any length of time, then you’ll be well aware of the Distance Selling Regulations 2000, which are now being replaced by these new laws. But don’t take it for granted that your customers do too.

Make sure your site contains a full list of the latest terms and conditions. And don’t just copy and paste terms from another website and assume they’ll be ok. You need to read them thoroughly and make sure your business complies fully.

Give Accurate Descriptions of Your Items

Unlike a high street shop, customers are unable to view the goods you have for sale up close. This is why describing them accurately is vital in order to avoid confusion, disappointment and ultimately returned items. The more detailed and helpful your product descriptions are, the more likely a site visitor is to buy them. This can be done by providing good quality images, product specifications and downloadable materials.

Be clear on Price

The total price of the goods, including any delivery or other charges, inclusive of VAT where applicable must be displayed clearly and concisely.

If you cannot give a confirmed cost upfront (maybe you’re selling an ongoing subscription service?), then clearly show the basis on which the ongoing costs will be calculated. So for example, the total cost per month or per year for the service, the minimum duration of the contract and conditions for terminating the contract. Also, if you accept different form of payment (such as Paypal) let your customers know as soon as you can.

State Delivery Information

Free deliveryDelivery times and options should be stated at the earliest possible stage of the ordering process. Providing clear options on the product detail page may also persuade customers to buy from you and will avoid disappointment when it comes to the length of time delivery takes. Remember, according to these new regulations, delivery is guaranteed within 30 days unless stated.

If you don’t ship certain items to certain regions or countries, you need to make this clear also.

Inform Your customers on Your Returns policy

You  might not want to think about it, but not every customer that orders from you will be happy with the goods they receive. This is why it’s vital you are clear on your returns policy.

Make sure your website clearly states information such as the terms, conditions, timeframes and procedure for cancelling, where a customer cannot cancel and details of any after-sales assistance support or services you offer.

Include and Order Summary Page

The new legislation also requires that prior to confirming the order, a clear Order Summary page be presented to the user. This should be a clear description of the main features of the products or services being purchased, the total price of the products or services including applicable taxes and A clear breakdown of any delivery charges or other charges, if applicable.

Use an “Order Confirm” Button

The new legislation requires that the customer is explicitly aware that by clicking on a button to buy an item or items, they are submitting their order and undertaking an obligation to pay for it/them.

So buttons that simply say “Submit”, “Submit Order”, “Proceed” or ”Order” are not sufficient, as they don’t always give the impression that the buyer is entering into a legally binding contract and agreeing to pay for the products or services shown on the Order Summary page.

The new legislation suggests terms such as “Pay Securely for this Order” on the last page of the checkout prior to taking the buyer to the payment process, or even “Order Now With Obligation to Pay,” to make absolutely sure that the customer is left in no doubt at all that they are agreeing to purchase your items.