Consumer protection legislation – what you need to know

Do you go to customers rather than them coming to you? If you visit a customer’s home or place of work in order to sell your goods or services, you need to be aware of the new consumer protection laws which came into force on 1 October 2008 (Cancellation of Contracts Made in the Consumer’s Home or Place of Work Regulations 2008). Which types of business is affected by the regulations? All traders who enter into a contract with the consumer, whether written or verbal, in the customer’s home, place of work, the home of another individual, or an excursion organised by the trader away from the trader’s business premises must comply with the new law. Cooling off period If your business fits into the above category, your customers are now entitled to a seven-day cooling off period. This cooling off period even applies if they approached you to request a product or service and agreed to your terms at the point of sale. Consumers who agree to purchase goods or services with a total payment value of more than £35 can now cancel any agreement within seven days and will not have to pay for the product/service. Notice of the right to cancel One of the major changes that the new legislation has brought in is that businesses must now give the customer written notice of his/her right to cancel the contract, whether the contract is a written or verbal. The ‘Notice of the right to cancel’ must comply with the following requirements: The ‘Notice of the right to cancel’ must be given at the same time the contract is made. Where the contract is wholly or partly in writing, the ‘Notice of the right to cancel’ must be incorporated in the same document. If incorporated in the written contract (or other document) the notice must be set out in a separate box with the heading “Notice of the right to cancel” and be as prominent as any other information in the contract or document. To download a template of the legal wording required, click here. Penalties for not complying Trading Standards will fine any business which is found not to have provided the correct written notice to customers. Protection for businesses against non-payment for goods or services provided before the end of the cooling off period. There is a list of circumstances when businesses will not lose out if the goods or services have been provided before the end of the cooling off period. These include : The supply of goods to meet an emergency. The supply of goods or services relating to a funeral. The supply of services of any other kind. The supply of goods made to a customer’s specifications or clearly personalised. The supply of goods, which by their nature are consumed and before the cancellation, were so consumed. The supply of goods which, before the cancellation, had become incorporated in any land or thing not comprised in the cancelled contract. The supply of perishable goods. The supply of newspapers, periodicals or magazines. Advertising in any medium. The supply of goods the price of which is dependent on fluctuations in the financial market which cannot be controlled by the trader. If your business comes under this list of exceptions, make sure you comply with the two points below in order to protect yourself against non-payment: Businesses must include in the ‘Notice of the right to cancel’ a statement that the consumer may be required to pay for the goods or services supplied if performance of the contract has begun before the end of the cooling-off period; and The customer must provide the trader with a written request for performance of the contract to begin before the end of the cooling off period. For further information contact the FPB’s member helpline on 0845 130 1722. If you have fallen foul of this new legislation, the FPB’s Campaigns team would like to hear from you. Contact us on 01565 634 467 or at We are preparing to submit our views on a draft European Directive on consumer legislation and would like to hear members’ experiences.