OFT reviews Distance Selling Regulations

Posted: 5th December 2012

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has published the results of a ‘websweep’ exercise that looked at the top 100OFTUK online retail websites, plus the top clothing retailers, between 9 and 20 February 2012, to assess levels of compliance with key elements of the Distance Selling Regulations and other consumer protection law.

The exercise surveyed 156 websites and identified instances of the following breaches:

  • The failure to provide a full geographic address and failure to provide a contact email address;
  • The inclusion of compulsory additional charges over and above the price originally shown, without any prior indication that this would be the case; and
  • The imposition of restrictions or conditions on cancellation refund rights which infringed the customer’s rights – e.g. that the product must be in its original packing, in its original condition, resalable or that it must be unused.

However, the sweep did find that the majority of websites were compliant with the Distance Selling Regulations when it came to providing other required information to the consumer. For example, 99 per cent of sites provided details on when the goods would be delivered or the service would start and 95 per cent provided a full geographical address when payment was required in advance.

The OFT has written to 62 of the online retailers surveyed urging full compliance with the law. Failure to do so could result in the OFT taking enforcement action against them.

The OFT has created a web-based guidance tool for businesses, the Distance Selling Hub, which provides information on the rules and regulations that apply to the sale of certain goods and services over the Internet, telephone, through interactive TV, by text or by mail order. View the report.