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Your rights when purchasing goods, services off premises

Sales concluded away from a seller’s business premises, such as at a consumer’s home or in the street, are legally considered off-premises sales. Even purchases concluded on the premises after the trader has communicated with consumers when they were not on the trader’s premises, such as in the street, are considered off-premises. These types of sales transactions are regulated by a specific legislation which provides consumers with additional rights and protection.

When making such purchases, consumers are legally entitled to be provided with specific information on the sale they are about to conclude. Consumers must be supplied with a written description of the main characteristics of the product or service they are about to buy, with information on the trader from whom they are buying and the latter’s contact details, total cost of the product or service, the agreed payment method and details on how and when goods will be delivered or service carried out.

When purchasing goods off-premises consumers must also be informed about the existence of the legal guarantee and their right to claim a free remedy from the seller if the goods bought do not conform to the original sales agreement. Furthermore, consumers also have the right to be informed that they have a cancellation period of 14 days, which allows them to change their mind about the purchase and therefore, may opt to cancel the sale. At this point, consumers would be entitled to claim a full refund of any money paid.

The right to cancel off-premises sales commences on the day the consumer concludes the sales agreement and ends 14 days after the consumer takes possession of the ordered goods.

If the sale concerns the purchase of a service, the right to cancel the sale ends after 14 days from the conclusion of the contract. Consumers should be properly informed about their right to cancel the sale. If they are not, this right is extended to an entire year.

If, during this year, consumers are informed about their cancellation rights, then the withdrawal period will expire 14 days after the day when the consumer receives the information.

To cancel the sale, consumers can use the cancellation form that should have been provided to them by the trader at the time of sale. Consumers may also opt to cancel by writing to the seller and inform him about their intention to cancel the sales agreement.

It is important that this communication is done in writing because it is your responsibility to provide proof that you cancelled the sale within the legal limit. Once a sale is cancelled, the trader is obliged to reimburse all payments received from the consumer within 14 days from the day the consumer informs the trader about their intention to cancel the sale.

The off-premises seller has the obligation to collect the unwanted goods if this was part of the sales agreement, or if the goods delivered to the consumer’s home cannot be returned by post. Otherwise, it is your responsibility to return the goods to the trader within 14 days from the date of cancellation.

These types of sales transactions are regulated by a specific legislation

Upon delivery of the goods ordered off-premises, consumers should check them to make sure they are the ones they really wanted to purchase. If, however, consumers intend to return the goods it is important that they do not use them as the trader may claim compensation for the reduced value.

In case of services, if consumers have the possibility to start using the service straight away, the trader should inform them that they will lose the right to cancel once the service contract has been performed. If, however, the service has not been completed when the consumer decides to cancel, while consumers can still cancel the sale, they will be required to pay for the part of the service the trader carried out.

There are some situations in which the right of withdrawal does not apply, such as in cases where goods bought are made to consumers’ specifications or clearly personalised, or in case of goods that deteriorate or expire rapidly.

Unsealed goods that are unsuitable for return due to hygienic reasons are therefore also excluded from the right of cancellation. The same applies to the purchase of newspapers, periodicals and magazines.

The provision of accommodation, transportation of goods, car rental services, catering or services related to leisure activities are also excluded from the right of withdrawal if the sales contract provides for a specific date or period of performance.

When buying goods or services off premises, consumers should keep in mind that they should not be requested to make any payments before the delivery of the goods or provision of service.

In case of goods delivered in parts, the trader can only ask for the payment that represents the price of the part delivered. If the trader requires the payment of a deposit, this must not exceed 10 per cent of the price and shall not be requested before 14 days from the date of the off-premises contract. When consumers are denied these rights, they may seek the help of the Office for Consumer Affairs to ensure that they are provided with the remedy they are entitled to.

Odette Vella is director, Information, Education and Research Directorate, Office for Consumer Affairs, Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.

odette.vella@mccaa.org.mt

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