UK Contract Law Cooling Off Period: Everything You Need to Know
UK consumers are protected by the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 when they make purchases from businesses. One of the regulations` key features is the cooling-off period, which allows buyers to change their minds about the purchase and return the product or cancel the service within a certain period. This article explains everything you need to know about the UK contract law cooling off period.
What is a Cooling Off Period?
A cooling-off period is a period of time during which a buyer can cancel a contract for any reason without penalty or obligation. It provides consumers with an opportunity to think carefully about their purchase, to check whether it meets their needs, and to compare prices and options.
The cooling-off period is also a protection against high-pressure sales tactics, scams, and false claims made by unscrupulous businesses. It gives buyers a chance to opt-out if they feel that they were misled, coerced, or deceived.
How Long is the Cooling Off Period?
The length of the cooling-off period depends on the type of purchase, the way it is made, and the goods or services themselves. In general, the following rules apply:
– Online purchases: If you buy goods or services online, by phone, or by mail order, you have a cooling-off period of 14 calendar days from the day you receive them. This is known as the “distance selling” rule.
– Doorstep sales: If you buy something from a salesperson who comes to your home or place of work, you have a cooling-off period of 14 calendar days from the day after you sign the contract. This is known as the “off-premises” rule.
– Shop purchases: If you buy something from a shop, you do not have a statutory cooling-off period unless the seller offers you one as part of their policy or service agreement. However, you may still be able to return the goods under certain conditions and consumer rights.
What Does the Cooling Off Period Cover?
The cooling-off period applies to contracts for the sale of goods and services that are not exempt from the regulations. It covers most consumer purchases made from UK and EU-based traders, including:
– Physical goods, such as clothes, electronics, furniture, and appliances
– Digital content, such as software, music, movies, and e-books
– Services, such as repairs, installations, and subscriptions
The cooling-off period does not apply to certain types of contracts, such as:
– Contracts for urgent repairs or maintenance
– Contracts for personalized or custom-made goods or services
– Contracts for perishable or quickly-expiring goods, such as food or flowers
– Contracts for sealed or opened audio or video recordings or software, where the seal has been broken and the recording or software has been downloaded or copied.
How to Withdraw from a Contract During the Cooling Off Period?
To cancel a contract during the cooling-off period, you need to notify the seller in writing, by email or letter, or by using their online cancellation form if they provide one. You do not need to give a reason for your cancellation, but you must do it within the time limit set by the regulations.
If you have already received the goods, you must return them to the seller within 14 days of your cancellation notice, or within 14 days of the seller notifying you to return the goods. The seller must refund you within 14 days of receiving the goods or evidence that you have sent them back.
If you have not yet received the goods, the seller must refund you within 14 days of your cancellation notice. They must also cancel any related credit or finance agreement.
The UK contract law cooling-off period is a valuable consumer protection that gives buyers time to reconsider their purchases and to change their minds without fear of losing money or facing penalties. It applies to most non-exempt contracts for the sale of goods and services, with the length of the period depending on the type of purchase and the way it is made. As a consumer, it is important to know your rights and to exercise them if needed, by following the proper procedures for cancellation and return.