Added protection for consumers from traders

PUBLISHED: 20:41 01 October 2008 | UPDATED: 16:42 14 April 2010

CONSUMERS get added protection from traders that visit their homes and places of work in new legislation that comes into force today, Wednesday.

CONSUMERS get added protection from traders that visit their homes and places of work in new legislation that comes into force today, Wednesday.

The Cancellation of Contracts Made in a Consumer's Home or Place or Work Regulations 2008 replaces previous law to say that regardless of whether a trader is invited or uninvited to a person's house, the consumer has a seven day cooling-off period within which time they can cancel the contract.

The regulations affect traders such as double glazing salesmen, builders soliciting to build extensions, replace driveways or patios - anyone who visits a person's home to sell them a product or service. It includes traders commissioned to make repairs to the consumer's house.

The protection is given only where the purchase of the product or service exceeds £35, and there are some contracts exempt of the regulations including the sale of immovable property, foodstuffs, and insurance.

Previously regulations have only protected consumers from contracts made with traders who arrive uninvited to their home.

The new regulations extend protection further to include contracts made with traders away from the consumer's home, including their workplaces and even if the consumer is at another person's home, or on an excursion away from their home, even if the visit is at the request of the consumer.

Peter Greene, Devon County Council's Fair Trading Manager for Devon Trading Standards, said: "The new law extends an important protection for consumers when making agreements at home, for example, in relation to agreeing to building work or double glazing or purchasing more expensive goods when a trader visits you at your home."

"It also helps us to target the cowboys and rogue traders, because in our experience, they rarely inform consumers of their cancellation rights."

What do businesses have to do?

A Notice of the Right to Cancel (a cancellation notice) must be dated and given to the customer at the time the contract is made. If the contract is wholly or partly in writing, the notice must be incorporated in the same document. The notice must be easily legible, and where incorporated in a contract or another document, must be set out in a separate box with the heading 'Notice of the Right to Cancel'.

What information should be included in the Notice of the Right to Cancel?

a) The business name,

b) Contract reference number,

c) A statement that the customer has the right to cancel the contract within seven calendar days starting on the day of receipt of the written notice

d) The name and address (or email) of the person to whom a cancellation notice may be given

e) A statement that the consumer may use the cancellation form provided if they wish

f) Where applicable a statement that payment may be required if the contract commences straightaway at their request, and they subsequently decide to cancel.

A business should be aware that if they fail to provide a Notice of the Right to Cancel to customers, that includes all the required information, they may be guilty of a criminal offence.

If a customer sends their cancellation notice to a business by post, it is deemed to have been issued at the time of posting, even if it is received beyond the seven day deadline.

Commencing work before the end of the cancellation period

A customer may ask for the work to be commenced prior to the end of the cancellation period, and this is possible under the Regulations. Where this arises, the business must ensure that it includes in the Notice of the Right to Cancel, a statement that payment may be required to be made if the contract is subsequently cancelled. The consumer cannot be made to waive their right to cancel within the seven calendar days, but it must be made clear to them that if they do cancel, they must make reasonable payment for goods and services provided up to the point of cancellation.

The business should always issue the Notice of the Right to Cancel and ensure that their customer records their agreement in writing to performance of the contract beginning before the end of the cooling off period if that is what they wish to happen.

Related Credit agreements

When a consumer serves a cancellation notice on a trader to cancel a contract for goods or services to which these Regulations apply, any related credit agreement will automatically be cancelled, with no further action required by the consumer.

What if the business doesn't give the consumer a cancellation notice with all the required information at the time the agreement is made?

The consumer is not liable to pay the business for work completed or return goods incorporated into land and property. The business will also commit a criminal offence.

There are a number of contracts that are excluded from these regulations such as the sale of immovable property, foodstuffs, and insurance.

If a business is unsure as to whether it is likely to be affected, or requires clarification of the regulations and their effect then further information can be accessed at http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/consumers/buying-selling/Doorstep-selling/index.html or contact Devon County Council's Trading Standards Service business helpline on (01392) 281381 or email tsadvice@devon.gov.uk.

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