Last edited 14 Oct 2019

Consumer contract

Contents

[edit] Introduction

A consumer contract is a legally-binding agreement that is made between a seller and a consumer – a person who purchases goods or services for personal use. These contracts typically cover finished products although they can cover the sale of raw materials and services.

Contracts can be made:

The structure and appearance of some traditional consumer contracts may mean they can look slightly intimidating to consumers, however consumers are provided some protection under law. Generally, parties are free to agree to any contract terms which they deem to be acceptable. However, consumer laws regulate terms or provisions that may be deemed unfair to consumers or be open to abuse by sellers.

In the UK, the rights of consumers purchasing goods and services are protected by the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

[edit] Elements of a legally-binding consumer contract:

The offer: for a consumer contract to be legally binding, it must include the consumer’s ‘offer’ which can involve one of the following:

The merchant accepts the consumer’s offer by one of the following acts:

  • Confirms the goods as sold by passing them through the till.
  • Sends an email receipt to confirm the sale.
  • Accepts the order and payment for a brochure transaction.

Consideration – or payment for the goods (including a promise to pay).

For the contract to be legally binding, both consumer and merchant must accept that they are legally bound (intention) to it and understand its meaning. Furthermore, the consumer must be:

  • Of the right age (ie not too young).
  • Be sound in mind (not mentally ill).
  • Not be under the sway of narcotics.

[edit] Consumer contracts regulations

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 are applicable to all contracts for the provision of goods from 13 June 2014.

The regulations apply to off-premises contracts, distance contracts and on-premises contracts and set out the following:

  • The information a trader must give to a consumer before and after making a sale.
  • How that information should be provided.
  • The right for consumers to change their minds when purchasing from a distance or off-premises.
  • Delivery times and passing of risk.
  • A prohibition on any additional payments which appear as a default option.
  • A prohibition on consumers having to pay in excess of the basic rate for post-contract customer help lines.

While the information appears to be primarily aimed at traders, the legislation does in fact affect contracts for professional services.

For more information see: Advice from CIAT about the cancellation of consumer contracts.

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