Pre-contract information requirements which a trader must comply with when forming electronic contract with a consumer.
- The E-Commerce Regulations
Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002
Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2013)
This Regulation is one which establishes legal rules which require compliance from online retailers, as well as service providers, when dealing with consumers of the countries in the European Union. It applies to any contracts conducted by electronic means, with the consideration of distance, whereby the buyer is a consumer. The terms and conditions under which the contract was concluded are required to be available to all consumers in a way which can be stored and reproduced.
An obligation which is imposed upon the seller is that they must state the technical steps involved in placing the order in a “clear comprehensible and unambiguous manner”. Furthermore, knowledge which must be provided to the consumer includes information about the seller and how the contract will be made, through electronic means. There is also the requirement of acknowledging the receipt of an order placed electronically, without undue delay. Prior to placing the order, the service recipient must hold appropriate and accessible technical means to be able to identify and correct input errors.
For any further information you may require please visit the GOV.UK website:
- The PSRs:
Provision of Services Regulations 2009 (PSRs)
Provision of Services Regulations 2009 (SI 2006/2999)
The PSRs is applicable to the majority of private sector businesses within the UK, which provide services to consumers. It holds the requirement that a trader must provide consumers with certain information about the business, as well as deal with customer complaints in a prompt manner.
There should be no discrimination against consumers in the provision of services regarding place of residence, unless it can be justified objectively.
For any further information you may require, please visit the GOV.UK website:
- The Consumer ADR Regulations
Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes Regulations 2015
Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015 (SI2015/542)
This regulation was introduced with aims of improving the availability and quality of ADR services in consumer disputes. There is no requirement or need for any existing ADR providers to become approved, however if you are not registered, it is likely that other approved ADR providers will have disputes being allocated to them.
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Outlined below is a list of certain information which must be provided in a clear and unambiguous manner, all in good time before, the finalising of a contract.
- Acknowledgement that an order implies an obligation to pay
This factor addresses the need for a consumer to be explicitly aware there is an obligation to pay. Where the clicking of a button is involved, in order to pay, the function must be labelled in a clear manner. Acceptable terms include ‘confirm purchase’ or ‘pay now’. Terms which will not suffice include ‘register’, ‘confirm’ or any ambiguous, unnecessarily long phrases, which conceal the requirement to pay.
When a contract is concluded electronically the trader must ensure to provide the following:
– the different steps which must be followed in order to finalise the contract
– the technical means for identifying and correcting input errors prior to the placing of the order
– the languages offered for the conclusion of the contract
- Information about the right to cancel
It is not required for this information to be placed directly before the consumer when placing the order, however if the contract is made by limited means of communication, the information regarding cancellation must be included. A trader should also include this information in the Term and Conditions.
- Trader to acknowledge orders
The trader must acknowledge orders without any undue delay. E-mail of receipt should be sent immediately after the consumer has placed the order.
- Payment and delivery arrangement
The delivery duration for the goods or performance of service should be included in the initial offer.
- Payment for returning the product: Consumer’s obligation
The consumer must be made aware if they have to bear the costs of returning the product, if unsatisfactory. This can be included in the product page and the checkout page. Where different prices vary by product, information could be customised.
- Contact details and address
The trader is required to provide the address at which he is established, and if possible, telephone number, E-mail address and fax number which would allow for efficient communication between the two parties, if necessary. If the service provider has provided an official address, the trader is by law required to register, notify or maintain that address, for the purpose of receiving notices.
- Registration Number
If the provider is registered in a trade, they must provide the name of the register and provider’s registered number or the equivalent (registration number).
- Professional Liability Insurance
Where a provider holds any professional liability insurance or guarantee, they should provide contact details and information about their insurer. This can be placed in the Terms and Conditions.
- Authorisation Schemes
If any activity is subject to an authorisation scheme, the particulars of the relevant authority should be addressed. An example of an authorisation scheme includes the Charity Commission. Advice as to where this information should be positioned is not given by the Commission Presentation Recommendations, however the Terms and Conditions appear an appropriate place to do so.
- VAT Number
Positioning once again not suggested, however being visible via a link or terms and conditions appear sufficient.
- Identity and address of another trader whom the trader is acting on behalf of
Where one is acting on behalf of another, there is the requirement to provide the geographical address and the identity of the other trader. An example used by the Commission Guidance illustrates that if a trader provides an online trading platform, selling content offered by different developers, the platform provider should ensure to display information about those developers.
- Reminder of the trader’s legal duty
Regarding the quality of the goods or products, there is the suggestion that a visible link should be provided as to the trader’s legal duty to supply goods which conform with the contractual agreement.
- No right to cancel
Where a consumer does not possess the right to cancel an order, or that right may be lost subject to conditions, this should be outlined prior to the placement of the order. This can be included in the product page and the checkout page.
- Details of Codes of Conduct
A trader must portray the existence of any relevant codes of conduct which they have chosen to comply with. The Commission Presentation Recommendations suggest a link to this should always be visible.
- Complaint and redress mechanisms
The outlining of the possibility of having recourse to an out-of-court complaint and redress mechanisms, to which the trader is subject to, if applicable. No information of positioning is provided however, visible via link or set out in the Terms and Conditions is sufficient.
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
If a trader is by law obliged to utilise ADR services provided by an ADR entity, the trader must provide the name and the website of the ADR entity in their Terms and Conditions, as well as their website, as per the ADR Regulations. As from 15 February 2016, every online trader is required to provide a link to the ADR platform on its website.