Consumer rights when buying goods or services over the phone

Consumer rights when buying goods or services over the phone

Telephone sales classify as distance sales which means that as consumers we have specific rights that we need to be aware of.

A very important right that consumers have when making a purchase over the phone is that we can change our mind and cancel the sale. The law gives us 14 days from the day we receive the product purchased or in case of services from the day we sign the contract of sale, to change our mind about the sale and claim full refund of any money paid.

Furthermore, should we decide to exercise this right, we do not need to give any reason why we no longer want the product or service and must not incur any costs, except the cost of returning the unwanted goods back to the seller. We should, however, be clearly informed about these costs… if not, postage expenses have to be paid by the trader.

Once we inform the trader about our intention to cancel the sale the latter must reimburse us within 14 days from the date we notified him with the cancellation.

The best way to cancel a distance sale is by filling in the withdrawal form provided by the seller at the time of purchase. If such form is not available, we can make a declaration that we want to withdraw from the contract of sale. It is important that such a statement is made in writing so that we have proof of having cancelled the sale within the stipulated time-limit.

Sellers who sell their products and services through telesales must provide consumers with the following information in writing before concluding a sales agreement:

▪ a description of the goods or services offered for sale;

▪ name, address and contact details of the seller;

▪ the total price of the goods or services inclusive of taxes and any other additional charges;

▪ the method of payment and by when the goods will be delivered. In case of services when these will be performed; and

▪ written information about the right of withdrawal.

The distance seller must also remind us about the legal guarantee which gives us the right to claim a free-of-charge remedy if the product purchased either results defective or does not conform to the original sales agreement. Furthermore, if the non-conforming goods have been delivered to us, then the cost of the return must be paid by the seller.

We need to be cautious if we are asked to pay for the goods before these are delivered to us. We should avoid giving our credit or debit card details over the phone. If we do, we should check our credit card statements and ensure that there are no unauthorised transactions.

Should we encounter any problems with the goods or services bought over the phone we should first try and solve the problem directly with the seller. If no amicable understanding is reached we may then lodge a complaint with the Office for Consumer Affairs within the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.

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