Online and distance selling

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Distance selling

You must provide certain information if you’re selling goods or services through digital TV, by mail order or by phone or text message. This is called distance selling.

If you do not follow the rules you could be made to provide the goods or services as agreed, pay compensation or be given an unlimited fine or a prison sentence.

There are extra rules you need to follow if you’re:

There’s different guidance on distance selling for overseas businesses selling goods to customers in Northern Ireland.

Before an order is placed

You must provide:

  • your business name, contact details and address
  • a description of your goods or services
  • the price, including all taxes
  • how a customer can pay
  • delivery arrangements, costs and how long goods will take to arrive
  • the minimum length of their contract and billing period
  • conditions for ending contracts
  • how they can cancel and when they lose the right to cancel
  • if they will still need to pay reasonable costs for using a service after they cancel
  • a standard cancellation form, if they can cancel
  • conditions for money given as a deposit or financial guarantees
  • what digital content does (for example, the language it’s in or how to update software)
  • the cost of using phone lines or other communication to complete the contract where it will cost more than the basic rate

This information must be easy to understand and on paper, in an email or another format the customer can save for future reference.

Right to cancel

There are different rules for downloads and streaming services.

You must tell the customer they can cancel their order up to 14 days after their order is delivered. They do not need to give a reason for cancelling.

If you do not tell the customer about their right to cancel, they can cancel at any time in the next 12 months. If you tell them about the right to cancel during these 12 months, they have 14 days to cancel from when you told them.

After an order is placed

You must:

  • provide a copy of the contract on paper, by email or another format the customer can save for future reference
  • provide the copy of the contract no later than when the goods are delivered
  • deliver the goods within 30 days, unless you’ve agreed otherwise with the customer

There are extra rules if you’re selling online or selling outside the UK.


These rules do not apply to:

  • goods and services worth £42 or less
  • NHS prescriptions and treatment (free and paid for)
  • financial services, for example pensions, mortgages, credit
  • the construction of new buildings (but not extensions)
  • food and drink supplied regularly (like milkmen)
  • gambling
  • package holidays, timeshares and holiday clubs
  • contracts to let a property the customer will live in, for example renting a house or flat (although they do apply to estate agents’ marketing services)
  • goods bought from a vending machine
  • using a payphone or paying to use an internet connection (for example, at an internet café)
  • bus, train, flight and other tickets for passenger travel

You must also follow the general rules for accepting returns or giving refunds.