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Many people shop at a distance. They may order goods, digital content, and services over the internet, by mail order, by telephone, by digital television or even by fax. At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when consumers had no choice but to shop online for anything other than their essential goods, online shopping surged. Despite the reopening of all non-essential shops in England from 12 April 2021 and the lifting of most restrictions in February 2022, many consumers are still choosing to shop online. Retail commentators predict that online sales will remain high, as people have become accustomed to online shopping.

In the UK, distance selling transactions are covered by normal buying and selling legislation, predominantly the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (SI 2008 No. 1277). Importantly, consumers are given additional rights by the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013 No.3134), known as the “Consumer Contracts Regulations”. The Regulations came into force on 13 June 2014, replacing the “Distance Selling Regulations” (the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000 No.2334)).

Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, traders selling at a distance must design their sales processes to comply with the rules governing distance selling, as well as the general rules for dealing with consumers. In particular, they must give consumers certain specified pre-contract information. The nature of this information varies depending on whether the sale is made at a distance (for example, online or over the phone) or made face-to-face but “off-premises” (i.e., somewhere that is not the store or business premises of the trader).

Brexit and the end of the UK-EU transition period have had little impact on the UK rules which regulate trading with consumers, even though the key legislation in this area is EU-derived. Such legislation remains in force, subject to post-transition changes made by Brexit Statutory Instruments (“Brexit SIs”) to reflect the fact that the UK is no longer in the EU.

Regarding the Consumer Contracts Regulations, the relevant Brexit SI is the Consumer Protection (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations (SI 2018 No. 1326). Part 4 section 8 of this Brexit SI makes amendments to the Regulations to ensure they continue to be appropriate and effective.  

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