OFT warns internet traders over distance selling

The Office of Fair Trading has promised to crack down on B2C companies who sell goods and services over the Internet after finding that more than half of UK web sites fail to adhere to the Distance Selling Regulations introduced in October 2000 – see our September 2000 early warning.

While most websites do now provide basic business contact details to consumers, they evidently still fail to give easily accessible information on refund or exchange policies as required by the regulations.

It was originally intended that a softly softly approach be adopted to encourage companies to adhere to the regulations. However in the light of its findings the OFT has been quick to remind people of the possible sanctions involved in non-compliance.

Where it is considered that a breach of the regulations has occurred, the Director General of Fair Trading has the power to apply for an injunction in the courts against the responsible company in order to obtain compliance. This could result in websites being shut down until the regulations are complied with. Contracts may also be unenforceable if the regulations are ignored.

Bulletins are for general guidance only. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters. Where reference is made to Court decisions facts referred to are those reported as found by the Court. Please note that past bulletins included in the Archive have not been updated by any subsequent changes in statute or case law.