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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 when this might be.

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 distance selling regulations 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:

  • you bought certain goods and services which the law says aren't covered by a cooling-off period
  • you're a business buyer
  • you bid for something in an online auction
  • you bought from a private individual
  • you agreed for a service, such as broadband, to start straight away. This depends on when the trader gives you certain information.

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:

  • something personalised or made-to-order
  • something perishable - for example, food or flowers
  • newspapers or magazines
  • a CD, DVD or computer software where the security seal has been broken
  • something bought by bidding through an online auction
  • something that’s price is dependent on changes in the financial market -for example, central heating oil
  • a new service that starts immediately - for example, paying for access to a website
  • accommodation, transport, catering and leisure services to be delivered on a specific date - for example, train tickets, hotel and restaurant bookings, taxis and theatre tickets
  • gaming, betting or lottery services
  • timeshare agreements
  • something where the trader has informed you before finalising the contract in writing or email that you will not be allowed to cancel once the service has begun.

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 might mean 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.

Next steps

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