OFT consults on guidance for IT-based businesses

The Office of Fair Trading is consulting on draft guidance for consumer IT goods suppliers who operate distance selling schemes.

The draft guidance is aimed at consumer IT businesses that deal with customers at a distance, such as via mail order, the internet and other home shopping methods.

The OFT wishes to ensure businesses comply with the Consumer Protection Distance Selling Regulations which give consumers rights when purchasing goods and services where there has been no face-to-face contact with the supplier; and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations, making sure that businesses use fair and clear standard contract terms that comply with the law.

The guidance has been designed specifically for the IT sector after an OFT study of the market for consumer IT goods found there were instances of unfair terms in consumer contracts. In particular, problems were found with terms misleading consumer about their statutory rights and with guarantee and warranty terms being lost in the small print of the agreement.

The draft guidance explains the requirements of the DSRs and UTCCRs. Areas covered include making the contract, price and additional charges, performance and delivery, variation of contract, cancellation terms, product warranties and consumer rights.

John Vickers, chairman of the OFT, says: “The market for consumer IT goods is worth over £2bn a year and consumers need to be confident that their rights are protected. The is intended to provide suppliers with a clear idea of the law on fairness of contracts and distance selling. We want it to be user-friendly and we welcome comments.”

The deadline for the consultation on &#39IT consumer contracts made at a distance&#39 is January 30 2004.