Some of you may have noticed that the order forms on our web site now have rather ugly buttons say "order with obligation to pay" instead of "Confirm" or "Place order" or some such.
Well, it is a new law coming in which replaces the old Distance Selling Directive on 13th June 2014: The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.
There has been some mention of these regulations as they will effectively get rid of the 0871 or otherwise expensive contact numbers. Section 41 says helpline telephone numbers shall not be more than the basic rate. Though they don't define that.
But there is a requirement buried in section 14 which is rather fun.
(4) If placing an order entails activating a button or a similar function, the trader must ensure that the button or similar function is labelled in an easily legible manner only with the words ‘order with obligation to pay’ or a corresponding unambiguous formulation indicating that placing the order entails an obligation to pay the trader.
Now, that is pretty specific. It says "only" with the words, and says the label on the actual button must say this (or corresponding unambiguous formation).
So web sites that just say "Order" or "Place order" or "Confirm" will not be complying.
Well these regulations have various enforcement for breaches, as most do, and one could expect trading standards or some such to complain if you don't meet the regulations. Fair enough.
Except, it goes on to say:
(5) If the trader has not complied with paragraphs (3) and (4), the consumer is not bound by the contract or order.
Now this is serious! It is way more serious than any wrap on the knuckles by trading standards or even a fine. It says the consumer is not bound by the contract!
Note that it does not say the contract is void, or can be cancelled by the consumer or any such (cancellation rights are all covered in detail elsewhere). It says the consumer is not bound by the contract. It does not say the trader is not bound. It does not say the consumer has to return goods supplied, or pay for services supplied. It is one sided - consumer not bound.
That is a massive penalty on the trader. And it applies to all UK traders from 13th June 2014. What fun that will be.