The Subscription Website Owners Guide to Distance Selling Regulations
This document is intended to outline the rules that a subscription website owner must adhere to, to ensure that they are selling their services legally. Most are common sense and good business practise, but make sure you are up to speed.
The government has not been very rigorous in enforcing these laws, but that is not to say they won't start clamping down.
(Before reading the article please see the legal disclaimer at the bottom the document).
Terms and Conditions
1) The Terms and Conditions must be drafted with ordinary words, short, precise sentences and subheadings to group similar issues. You should avoid jargon, technical language, acronyms, cross referencing, etc.
2) All advertising and information provided on the website about your products and services must be accurate, and should not mislead the consumer. Statements made about your services may form part of the contract if challenged.
3) Any changes to your standard contract terms must be provided in writing at the time the contract is entered into.
4) The terms of the contract between the publisher and the consumer must be made clear at the time the contract is entered into. This should be done in the terms and conditions, on the order form and in the order acknowledgment email.
5) The client should be able to easily print out a copy of the T&C’s or store an electronic copy on their computer.
6) We would recommend that you have a clearly identifiable Terms and Conditions link on the Home Page. Whilst this is not mandatory, it will help you demonstrate that they were easily readily accessible to your consumers. Also if you agree to a contract by phone, you should make sure you tell the consumer that they can find the T&C’s on the website.
Cancellation and Guarantees
7) The following information should be provided to the consumer before and after they sign up to the service. They should be in writing or some other medium that enables the consumer to keep an unchanged copy for the duration of the contract:
a. Details about how they can cancel the service soon after signing. For most services, there is a mandatory seven-day cooling off period during which time they can cancel. Find out about the exceptions if you are providing valuable time-sensitive information.
b. Details about cancelling the service after the contract term.
c. If they need to return anything to you on cancellation, this should be made clear, including where it should be returned, when, who pays, etc.
d. Details of any service guarantees.
e. Details about how consumers can make a complaint.
8) We would recommend that this information is provided on the website under an ‘Our Guarantee’ link, which should be placed on both the ‘Home Page’ and ‘Order Form’. A copy should also be sent with the order confirmation email.
9) If a cancellation policy is not clearly provided at the time of order, the cancellation period is seven days from the date the cancellation policy is provided. If the cancellation policy is never provided, the cancellation period is three months and seven days from the date of signing.
10) A contract is cancelled as of the day the consumer sends the cancellation notice by post, email or fax.
11) Consumers who cancel a service should receive a full refund as soon as possible, but within a maximum of 30 days.
12) If the consumer does not receive the service they contracted for, they are entitled to a full refund.
Information Publishers Must Provide
13) Under the Distance Selling Regulations and Electronic Commerce Regulations, the following information must be made available to potential consumers before they sign up:
a. Your identity.
b. Your address.
c. A clear description of the service that you will be providing.
d. The price of the service (including all taxes).
e. Any delivery charges. This unlikely to apply to a subscription website.
f. Details of how the consumer will pay, including information about recurring subscriptions and annual renewals.
g. How long the price or any offer remains valid.
h. Any information about the delivery of the service that the consumer should know. This could include minimum computer specifications, broadband requirements, etc.
i. Whether you reserve the right to provide an alternative service of equivalent or greater value should the contracted service no longer be available.
j. The minimum duration of the service (if there is one). Also see Guarantee.
14) Under the Electronic Commerce Regulations 2002 the following information must be provided. This overlaps with the DSR requirements above:
a. The name of your company.
b. The geographical address.
c. Your contact details including an email address to enable “rapid, direct and effective communication”.
d. Details of any trade organisation to which you belong, where the register is open to the public. You should provide the means for a consumer to identify you with the trade organisation, e.g., your registration number.
e. Details of any regulated professional body or similar institution with whom you are registered. Relevant for sites giving financial and investment advice.
f. VAT registration number if you have one.
g. Clear, unambiguous statement of price including taxes and delivery charges.
15) We would recommend that you have both an ‘About Us’ and ‘Contact Us’ pages linked from the Home Page, which clearly provide all the information listed above. It must be easy for your consumers to find.
The Sign Up Process
16) The site must clearly show the steps a consumer must follow to sign up for the site.
17) The sign up process should encourage a consumer to read the Terms and Conditions before they sign up. They should have to tick a box to acknowledge that they have read and understood them.
18) The consumer should have an easy way of correcting input errors.
19) Consumers must receive acknowledgement of their order straight after the order is placed and they must be given information about how they can change the order details if they are shown as incorrect.
20) The consumer should be made aware of when the contract term starts and when it ends. If the contract has an unspecified length, this should be clearly stated with details about how they can cancel the contract.
21) For renewals, the publisher does not need to send a renewal notice unless it states in the Terms and Conditions that they will do so.
22) We would recommend that for monthly and quarterly recurring subscriptions, consumers are told at the beginning of the contract that they will be billed until they send written instructions to cancel the service. For annual subscriptions, we would recommend that the consumer is notified three weeks before renewal that a renewal payment for the service will be taken from their account. This should be discussed with individual clients.
There are additional obligations if supplying physical goods, software downloads and consulting services. For a more complete overview visit the government website:
These laws and legal obligations are continually changing so this information is not intended to be legal advice, but to provide information to raise your awareness about the issues of providing services over the internet. SubHub Ltd take no responsibility for the accuracy, completeness and validity of the information provided in this document. Please seek legal advice before implementing any of these guidelines.