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Does the distance sale cooling-off period apply to you?

When you buy goods or services by distance sale, the law says you can usually cancel your contract within a cooling-off period.

A distance sale is when you buy something without face-to-face contact, for example on the internet, by phone, mail order or through the TV.

However, there are some situations when you have no right to a cooling-off period. This page tells you about when the cooling-off period won't apply to a distance sale..

Top tip

You’re unlikely to get the right to a cooling-off period if you buy from a trader who only takes occasional orders by distance sale.

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 only apply where a trader routinely does business through distance sales. This can be shown where the trader has standard procedures to process orders, has standard contracts for distance sales and sends out standard correspondence.

When the cooling off period won’t apply

You might not get the right to a cooling-off period if:

Goods and services not covered by a cooling-off period

If you bought any of the following goods or services, you will not have an automatic right to a cooling-off period:

  • goods made to your specifications or that are clearly personalised, for example, made to measure curtains or a wallet engraved with your name
  • goods which are likely to deteriorate quickly, such as flowers
  • urgent repairs or maintenance when you specifically request a trader to visit to do them
  • things you buy at a public auction. This is one run by an auctioneer that you could attend if you wanted to and where you will be bound to buy if you are a successful bidder. Online auctions are not public auctions
  • the supply of accommodation, transport of goods, vehicle rental services, catering or leisure activities for specific dates, for example, hotel and restaurant bookings, theatre tickets and courier services
  • goods or services where the price is dependent on financial market fluctuations during the cancellation period and are not controllable by the trader, for example, gold or central heating oil
  • alcoholic drinks, if the price was agreed at the time the contract was concluded, delivery is within 30 days and the value is dependent on market fluctuations not controlled by the trader, for example, vintage wines bought as an investment
  • newspaper, periodical or magazine supplies, apart from subscriptions
  • free or NHS medicinal products or services
  • passenger transport services, such as train, bus or plane tickets.

More about contracts not covered by the regulations for distance sales

Personalised or made-to-order items

An example of a personalised or made-to-order item includes a gift with someone’s name on it.

When you buy a car, if you choose options from a menu, such as an MP3 player or cruise control, these are not classed as personalisation. Personalised elements of a car would be a bespoke paint colour or alloy wheels designed especially for you.

Business buyers

If you're a business buyer and you buy something in a distance sale, you don't have the same cancellation rights as you would if you were an ordinary consumer. You need to check your contract to see if it gives you any cancellation rights. Or you could ask the trader if you can cancel as a goodwill gesture.

You bought something at an online auction

When you buy something at an online auction, you don't have a legal right to cancel unless you bought using a ‘buy now’ button instead of bidding.

When you may lose the right to cancel

There are some contracts where you may lose the right to cancel, once something specific happens:

  • sealed goods which are not suitable for return for health or hygiene reasons, once they have been unsealed after delivery, for example, pierced earrings
  • sealed audio or video recordings or computer software, once unsealed after delivery
  • goods, once they have become inseparably mixed with other items after delivery, for example, fabric dye once you have mixed it with water
  • services, once they have been fully carried out during the cancellation period. This only applies if you've clearly asked for the service to start during the cooling-off period and you've received the appropriate cancellation details. It doesn't apply to contracts for gas, electricity or district heating supplies
  • digital content, once the streaming or downloading has begun during the cancellation period , providing you gave your express consent for this to happen and acknowledged that this would mean that you would lose your right to cancel.

More about services that start during the cooling-off period

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