When you are sold something on the internet, by mail order or phone, this is known as distance selling.
- Adviceguide – Buying by internet, mail order or phone (NI)
- Citizens Information – Shopping from home (Ireland)
Distance selling for Consumers
Distance selling is selling and buying goods or services without face to face contact, for example shopping by internet, mail order, phone or television. The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations give you legal rights when you buy goods from a trader who normally sells goods or services at a distance. The regulations apply to the sale of goods or services to consumers but not to businesses. It doesn’t matter how you pay for the goods and the regulations apply to both new and second-hand goods.
The European Directive on Distance Selling (Directive 97/7/EC) and the EC (Protection of Consumers in respect of contracts made by means of distance communication) Regulations 2001 (Statutory Instrument 207 of 2001) aim to ensure that consumers can expect the same minimum level of protection no matter where a supplier is based in the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland.
The Which? Consumer Rights (UK) website provides a useful summary and explanation of the regulations .
Certain goods and services, particularly if bought from companies based outside of the EU, may be subject to Customs Tax, Excise Duty or import VAT. If you are unsure, please check the relevant website below:
Revenue – Ordering Goods for Personal Use over the Internet or from Mail Order Catalogues
- Northern Ireland
HMRC – Tax on goods ordered from or bought abroad
If you buy goods or services from a country within the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA), the consumer law of that country will apply to you.
- If you live in the south and buy from the north, UK consumer law will apply.
- If you live in the north and buy from the south, Irish law will apply.
In practice, both UK and Irish laws are very similar as they both follow the same EU Regulations.
- Your Europe – FAQs – Online shopping
- European Consumer Centre, Ireland – Shopping online
- UK European Consumer Centre – Shopping online
- Consumers Association of Ireland – Buying online FAQs
- NI Direct – Internet shopping
- Adviceguide – Buying from an overseas seller in Europe
Page last checked: January 2016
This webpage is for general information purposes only and while we endeavour to keep it up-to-date, errors may occur. It is very important that you check with the relevant body to ensure the information is current and is applicable to your situation.
If you would like to suggest amendments or highlight new information that could be useful to others please don’t hesitate to get in touch.