If goods are faulty and you complain quickly enough you will usually have a right to reject them and get a refund.
But you don't always have a right to cancel just because you change your mind.
A trader's guide to contracts concluded in consumers' homes or workplaces
The Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer's Home or Place of Work etc. Regulations 2008 apply to any contract made between a consumer and a trader, for the supply of goods or services during a visit by the trader.
This visit can be to the consumer's home or place of work, or to the home of another individual, during an excursion organised by the trader away from his business premises, or after an offer made by the consumer during such a visit or excursion. The value of the goods or services must be over £35.
The Regulations cover contracts that are made during both solicited (trader visits by express request from consumer) and unsolicited (unrequested) visits by traders. The Regulations apply to all contracts with a total payment of more than £35 and they set the cooling-off period to a minimum of seven calendar days.
The Regulations also require cancellation rights to be clearly and prominently displayed in any written contract or provided in writing if there is no written contract.
However, if consumers decide to have work done, or to receive goods, within the seven-day cooling-off period, they need to give their agreement in writing.
If they have given this written agreement for any of the following:
- Goods supplied to meet an emergency
- Goods that are personalised or made to your specification
- Goods whose price is dependant on fluctuations in financial markets
- Perishable goods
- Goods which by their nature are consumed by use and cannot be returned
- Goods that have become incorporated into land, or something else
- Goods or services relating to a funeral
- Supply of newspapers, periodicals or magazines
- Advertising in any medium
- Supply of services of any kind
The Regulations do not apply to:
- Catalogue orders where there is a notice showing the right to return goods or cancel the contract
- Contracts relating to shares and investments
- Contracts for food and drink supplied by regular rounds-men
- Insurance contracts
- Contracts for mortgages, home purchase plans or home revision plans made during a solicited visit
- Agreements that are cancellable under the Consumer Credit Act 1974
- Solicited contracts for regulated consumer credit agreements under the Act
- Contracts for the construction, sale or rental of property (but they do apply to extensions, patios, conservatories or driveways and to repairs, refurbishment and improvement of property)
- Contracts under £35
Cancellation notice to be provided to consumers
Attached below is an example of a cancellation notice you should be providing to your consumers in almost all contracts concluded in their home, another persons home or their workplace, with a total payment of over £35.
It contains the information that must be provided as a detachable slip by the trader. Please note the capitalisation should remain. The Regulations require the information to be legible.
If the right to cancel is incorporated into another document or in the contract it must be set out in a separate box with the heading 'Notice of right to cancel'.
In addition to the above you must also supply the consumer with:
- The identity of the trader, including trading name if any
- The trader's reference number, code or other details to enable the contract or offer to be identified
- A statement that the consumer has a right to cancel the contract if they wish and that this right can be exercised by delivering or sending (including by electronic mail) a cancellation notice, to the name and address given, at any time within the period of seven days, starting with the date of receipt of a notice in writing of the right to cancel the contract
- The name and address (including any electronic mail address as well as the postal address) of a person to whom a cancellation notice may be given
- A statement that notice of cancellation is deemed to be served as soon as it is posted or sent to a trader or in the case of an electronic communication from the day it is sent to the trader
- A statement that the consumer can use the cancellation form provided if they wish to
A further section must be provided for the customer to sign if they wish to have the work commence within the seven day cooling off period.
Other laws and regulations that can directly apply to sales made at the doorstep
These Regulations impose a number of general requirements on all businesses and some requirements that are specifically aimed at doorstep sellers. Broadly speaking, if you are treating customers fairly then you are likely to be complying with these Regulations.
You must not use any aggressive, deceptive or coercive tactics to obtain work or money. This also includes exploitation, causing fear or the application of any undue influence.
You must not use harassment. This specifically includes threatening or abusive language and behaviour.
Any descriptions applied to goods or services provided by you must be accurate. You may be criminally liable for any inaccuracies or omissions (i.e. 'false trade descriptions'), even if somebody else has applied the description or made the omission. You and persons trading on your behalf must not impair a consumer's ability to make an informed decision that causes the consumer to make a transactional decision he would not have otherwise taken.
Please see our leaflet: 'A guide to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008' for further information.
This legislation places certain duties on you if you provide services for consumers, such as building or gardening. This Act creates certain automatic 'implied' conditions (see below) within the contract that you have with the consumer. These conditions provide the consumer with statutory rights, whether the contract is written or not, for up to six years from the date of the contract. The following terms are implied:
- The work will be carried out with reasonable care and skill
- Where no time for the work has been agreed, it will be carried out within a reasonable time
- Where no charge for the work has been agreed, a reasonable charge will be payable
If you supply goods in the contract, consumers also have rights regarding these goods. They are entitled to expect that such goods will be fit for their purpose and be of satisfactory quality.
The Act creates a general offence of fraud and introduces the three possible ways of committing it. As the name suggests fraud is a serious offence and carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
Fraud by false representation - You would commit fraud by false representation if you knowingly lied about the extent of any work required or about any work that you incorrectly claim to have done. Fraud by false representation could also include gross overcharging.
Fraud by failing to disclose information that there is a legal duty to disclose - Fraud by failing to disclose information would apply to situations where you are under a duty to tell the customer something or provide them with a notice, such as notice of their cancellation rights, and you fail to do so.
Fraud by abuse of position - This makes it an offence to commit a fraud by dishonestly abusing one's position. It applies in situations where you have been put in a privileged position, and by virtue of this position you are expected to safeguard another's financial interests or not act against those interests.
Please note: This web page is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance. Please contact us for further information.
The Citizens Advice consumer service provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit the Citizens Advice website or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0345 404 0506.