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Distance selling for Online businesses

Online and distance selling for businesses

 

Overview

You must provide certain information for your customers if you’re selling goods online, through digital TV, by mail order or by phone, text message or fax.

Before an order is placed

All distance sellers must follow certain rules before and after an order is placed.

You must display information such as:

  • your business name and contact details
  • 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
  • conditions for terminating contracts
  • information about the customer’s right to cancel within 14 days

You must tell the customer if they will be responsible for paying for the return of goods if they cancel. If you don’t, they’re not liable for the costs.

After an order is placed

You must get in touch with your customer in writing after an order is placed and before the goods or services have been delivered.

You must tell them:

  • details of what they have purchased
  • the total cost
  • arrangements for delivery
  • the minimum duration of any contract and arrangements for terminating the contract
  • how and when they can cancel an order and who pays for returning goods
  • an address where complaints can be sent
  • any guarantees or after-sales services you offer
  • conditions for terminating contracts
  • any helpline call charges that are more than calling an 01, 02 or 03 number, or a mobile or free number

There are extra rules if you’re selling online or selling overseas.

Sale of Goods Act

All businesses that supply goods, including online and distance sellers, must follow the ‘Sale of Goods Act’.

You could be classed as a trader if you sell goods or services. If you’re trading, you’re self-employed.

 

Selling online

As well as the general rules for distance selling, there are some extra rules for selling online.

You must:

  • list the steps involved in a customer placing an order
  • acknowledge receipt of any orders electronically as soon as possible
  • take reasonable steps to allow customers to correct any errors in their order
  • let customers know what languages are available to them
  • make sure customers can store and reproduce your terms and conditions, ie these can be downloaded and printed off
  • give your email address
  • give your VAT number (if your business is registered for VAT)
  • give clear prices and delivery costs for your products

You could be classed as a trader if you sell goods or services. If you’re trading, you’re self-employed.

 

Selling overseas

As well as the general rules for distance selling, there are some extra rules for selling overseas.

Selling within the EU

You must charge VAT to EU customers if you’d do the same for customers in the UK.

Selling outside of the EU

You must not charge VAT for customers outside of the EU. Instead, fill out a customs declaration when you ship the products.

You must keep ‘proof of export’ if you sell to customers outside of the EU. This includes:

  • the customer’s order – including their name, VAT number and delivery address
  • internal correspondence
  • sales invoices
  • advice notes
  • packing lists
  • commercial transport documents
  • details of insurance or freight charges
  • bank statements
  • consignment notes

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