The rules are changing for online shopping

Paul Lewis / 11 June 2014

You now get longer to change your mind about things you have bought online.

Before the change in early June you had seven working days to say you did not want something you had bought ‘at a distance’ – which means online shopping or on the phone. The new rules extend that to 14 calendar days, which is up to five days longer.

You do not need a particular reason – the new law does not change your absolute right to return an item without saying why. But it does impose some new restrictions.

In the past you could try out the item, perhaps wear a garment or use a toaster, but as long as you took ‘reasonable care’ of it you would still get a full refund if you decided you did not want it.

But the new law says you must not do anything to it which you could not do in a shop – it must be in a saleable condition and if it is not the retailer can make a deduction for the loss in value. I can see endless disputes over that rule!

Under the old law you could just reject an item it and get the refund at that stage, before you had sent it back. If you kept it, that led to the seller being out of pocket, as it was very difficult to force people to return goods for which they had been refunded.

Under the new law you have to return the item before you can get the refund, which includes postage costs. So it is very important to get a proof of posting when you send it back in case there is a dispute about it not arriving.

You will also have to pay the return postage. But if the retailer does not specify that you must pay and explain any unusual delivery costs then you may be able to reclaim the money you spent on that too.

Unlike the old law the new rules also apply to digital purchases – such as music or a film or software.

You have the right to reject digital items within 14 days too.

However, the right disappears once you download the item.

So you can change your mind before you have downloaded it but not after. That is because you are considered only to have bought a copy of the item – which you may be able to copy again – and therefore you cannot return it.

The new law also says that retailers have to provide a standard phone line for customers to ring them on – it cannot be an expensive 084 or 087 number or, of course, a premium rate line.

It can be a landline, a mobile or an 0800 number. Remember that from a mobile phone an 0800 number will usually not be free and can be very expensive.

It will be June 2015 before 0800 numbers will always be free.

The new rights apply to any contract made from June 13 2014 anywhere in the 28 members of the European Union.

They will not apply to purchases from countries outside the EU.

The new rules do  not affect your normal statutory rights to a full refund if goods are defective or not as described. 


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.