30 October 2000

The UK government is introducing new legislation to encourage consumers to purchase online or through home shopping channels.

The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 state that:

* There must be a seven-day cooling-off period in which customers can return their purchases in exchange for a full refund.

* Companies must furnish customers with written descriptions of the goods for them to compare with what is delivered.

* Delivery must be made within 30 days of order receipt.

* Consumers will no longer be liable for bills incurred through credit card fraud (they currently pay the first £50).

* Telesales ‘cold calls’ will have to state the name of the company and the purpose of the call from the outset.

Consumer Affairs minister Kim Howells commented that the measures would give consumers the same rights that protect them in the high street: “Shoppers using the internet, digital TV or catalogues have got to be reassured that they will get the goods they think they are buying and if they don't want them or they don't like them, they can get their money back”

However, consumer groups are concerned that the legislation applies only to EU-based internet companies and does not create a new criminal offence for breaching the code.

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)