How Consumer Contract Regulations Affect Your eBay Store

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If you operate a UK-based eBay store, you need to be aware of some important legislation, including Consumer Contract Regulations (CCRs). If you contravene the relevant legislation, you could end up in trouble – and that’s not something that anybody wants.

Whilst it’s true that many eBay sellers (even some surprisingly big ones) ignore CCRs and other legal responsibilities, this isn’t a good idea. The HMRC has recently announced that it will crackdown on eBay sellers, using information provided by eBay itself to see who has an income from online sales.

From June 13 2014, the previous legislation, known as the Distance Selling Regulations (DSRs), was subsumed by the Consumer Contracts Regulations. The DSRs set out information sellers must give about their goods and services, and the Consumer Contracts Regulations pick up where they left off. This means that all distance sellers need to provide:

  • A description of the goods or service, including how long any commitment will last on the part of the consumer.
  • The total price of the goods or service, or the manner in which the price will be calculated if this can’t be determined.
  • Cost of parcel delivery.
  • Details of any right to cancel – the trader also needs to provide or make available a standard cancellation form to make cancelling easy (though consumers aren’t under any obligation to use it).
  • Seller information, including a geographical address and phone number.
  • Information on the compatibility of digital content with hardware and other software.

Consumer Contract Regulations apply when you sell from a distance to non-business buyers – in effect, whenever you sell to an individual with no face-to-face interaction. The regulations mainly cover sales made on the internet, but may also apply to those made via SMS, over the phone, and even via fax.

You can (and should!) read more information, including the details you must provide, about Consumer Contracts Regulations here.

However, to help you get up to speed, we’ve listed some of the ways Consumer Contracts Regulations, as well as some other important legislation, affect your eBay store.

Register As a Business

If you’re operating as a business (and, if you’re serious about eBay selling, you probably are) you need to inform eBay of this fact. Registering is easy, and you can do so here.

You must register if:

  • You sell items that you have bought specifically to resell.
  • Make items yourself and sell them with the intention of making a profit.
  • Are a trading assistant.
  • Buy items for your business.

It is an offence for a business to misrepresent itself as a private individual. As such, failure to register as a business if you are operating as one will lead you to break the law. You can find out more about registering as a business with eBay here.

Provide Goods of a Satisfactory Quality, As Described, and Fit for Purpose

The Sales of Goods Act 1979 (as amended) makes it an offence to sell products that are not:

  • Of a satisfactory quality.
  • As described.
  • And fir for purpose.

This means that any of the goods you sell cannot be faulty at the time of sale, must match the description given to them and, allowing for factors such as price, must be fit for purpose, defect free, safe, and durable.

“Fit for purpose” covers, not only the most obvious purpose of the goods, but also any specific claims you have made – such as “suitable for wet conditions”.

Importantly, the Sales of Goods act applies to both new and used items. Though second-hand items are more likely to have defects or faults, these must be mentioned in the description.

Include Correct Pricing Information

The Consumer Protection Act 1987 makes it an offence for business sellers to mislead consumers about the price of goods. This applies no matter which medium a price is given – written or oral. It is also an offence to provide disinformation about the manner in which a price has or will be calculated.

Do Not Use Misleading Listings

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 makes it an offence to treat consumers unfairly. In particular, it obliges businesses not to use:

  • Aggressive practices (such as pressure selling)
  • Misleading practices (including misleading intentionally and omitting information)

The touchstone for unfair trading practice is whether an alleged practice distorted a consumer’s economic behaviour (i.e., was the consumer persuaded to make a purchase they wouldn’t have otherwise made because of the practice in question?).

A breach of the Unfair Trading Regulations is, in most cases, a criminal offence.

Returns

The Consumer Contract Regulations give your consumers rights in relating to returns and cancellations.

  • All consumers have a right to cancel an order 14 days after they receive their goods (and any time before they receive them).
  • If a consumer decides to cancel, they have another 14 days to send the goods back.
  • If a consumer requests a refund, you should provide one no less than 14 days after you receive the goods back.
  • If the consumer has handled the goods more than necessary, you are entitled to make a reduction to their refund.
  • You have to refund the basic parcel delivery cost of sending the consumer goods in the first place. So, if they opted for an enhanced parcel delivery service (e.g., next day parcel delivery) you only have to refund the basic cost.

Conclusion

We hope that it’s clear just how important abiding by legislation is when it comes to running a good eBay store. However, the information presented in this article is neither comprehensive nor intended as legal advice. It’s simply an attempt to give eBay sellers an idea about the legislation that affects them.

If you are unsure about any of the legislation mentioned in this article or have other legal concerns or questions, you should speak to an appropriately trained legal professional.

Do you run an eBay store? How has your experience been when it comes to eBay and the law? Let us know with a comment.

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