Skip to main content Skip to search

Online selling

Online and distance selling

1. 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 don’t 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:

selling goods or services online
registered for VAT (https://www.gov.uk/vat-businesses/vat-rates)
selling in other EU countries (https://www.gov.uk/starting-to-export/within-eu)

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 cansave 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 don’t need to give a reason for cancelling.
If you don’t 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

Exceptions
These rules don’t 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

2. Online selling

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

Follow the VAT rules (https://www.gov.uk/vat-businesses/vat-rates) and reporting rules
(https://www.gov.uk/starting-to-export/within-eu) if you’re selling in other EU countries.

Before an order is placed

You must:

make it clear to customers they have to pay when they place an order (for example, a ‘pay now’ button)
display clearly how customers can pay and include delivery options and costs
list the steps involved in a customer placing an order
take reasonable steps to let customers correct errors in their order
let customers know what languages are available
make sure customers can store and reproduce your terms and conditions, for example, these can be downloaded and printed off
give your email address
give your VAT number (if your business is registered for VAT)
give the cost of using phone lines or other communication to complete the contract where it will cost more than the basic rate
give a description of your goods, services or digital content – include as much information as you can
give the total price or how this will be calculated
give the total delivery cost or how this will be calculated
tell them the minimum length of their contract
give any conditions for ending rolling contracts or contracts with no clear end date
You must confirm the contract as soon as possible, for example with an email.

Selling digital services

There are extra rules for selling digital services which customers download or stream online, including:

computer games
in-game purchases
TV and film
books
computer programs
mobile phone apps
Downloads and streaming services

If you supply downloads or streaming services, you must:

get the customer to confirm before they download or stream content that they are aware they’ll lose their 14 day right to cancel
get the customer to agree to an instant download before they start the download
include this information in your confirmation of the contract, along with the other pre-contract information
If you don’t follow these rules, the customer will keep their 14 day right to cancel without paying.

After an order is placed

You must:

confirm the contract as soon as possible and no later than when goods are delivered, a service starts or digital content is downloaded (for example, an email must be sent when content is downloaded even if it doesn’t arrive at the same time)
provide a copy of the contract on paper, by email or another format the customer can save for future reference
deliver the goods within 30 days, unless you’ve agreed otherwise with the customer
VAT rules in the EU
There are special rules on registering for VAT if you sell digital services to customers in other EU countries.