Consumer rights

Published Wednesday, 09 July 2014
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What you need to know - new laws which came into force on 13 June 2014 give each of us greater protection than ever before.

That's protection when it comes to making a purchase in store, away from the traders' premises, online, by telephone or by catalogue.

The new Consumer Contracts Regulations mean the following changes:

Additional pre-purchase information for consumers

- Consumers must be informed of their cancellation rights before the purchase is complete;
- Specific information about digital downloads such as music, e-books or apps must be provided. This should include details of their functionality and operating system requirements;
- Distance sellers must provide a link to a cancellation form that consumers can choose to fill out;
- For online sales, the 'obligation to pay' button or similar must be clear so you cannot be duped into paying for 'free' trials or subscriptions; and
- Delivery restrictions must be specified at the beginning of the shopping process, e.g. online companies must make it clear upfront if they don't deliver to Northern Ireland.

Cancellation rights

- The cancellation period extends to 14 days from the date goods are delivered or the service contract agreed;
- Consumers have the right to cancel a digital download up until the point that the downloading process begins;
- Refunds to consumers must be issued within 14 days of the seller receiving the returned goods;
- Refunds for goods bought online, by catalogue, phone or other forms of distance selling can be withheld until the consumer has returned the goods;
- Traders can deduct money from the refund if it appears the item has been used; and
- When the main contract is cancelled, all related contracts are also terminated automatically, e.g. insurance cover or finance for a mobile phone or sofa.

Hidden costs

The following practices have been banned
- Excessive charges for payment methods such as paying by credit card - while additional charges for using a credit cards can still be applied these must be reasonable and link to the costs incurred by the trader for accepting this type of payment;
- Only offering premium rate telephone numbers for consumers wishing to contact the trader with a complaint or query. If traders offer the option to contact them by phone, at least one of their numbers must be charged at basic rate i.e. the normal geographical or mobile phone rate; and
- Pre-ticked boxes when shopping online, e.g. payment for additional options such as insurance and car rental.

Any consumer who wants to know about their consumer rights can contact the Consumer Council on 0800 121 6022 or download a free copy of our 'Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 Factsheet' or updated 'Guide to Shopping Safely Online' at


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Consumer Council
Consumer Council

The Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland's consumers.

They aim to make consumer voices heard and make them count.

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