Off-premises sales are sales contracts concluded between consumers and traders outside traditional brick-and-mortar stores. These sales include transactions made during a salesperson’s visit to a household or buying from a salesperson in the street, or ordering over a telephone.

A sale that is finalised at a trader’s business premises immediately following a meeting with a consumer at a location other than the trader’s business premises is also considered off premises. Sales concluded at a trade fair may also be classified as off premises and are subject to specific consumer regulations.

While this type of shopping offers convenience to consumers, it also comes with rights and responsibilities that seek to ensure a fair and secure shopping experience.

An important right consumers have when concluding sales contracts off premises is the right to information.

The Consumer Rights Regulations in fact specify certain information requirements that must be observed by off-premises sellers before a sale is concluded. These include a detailed description of the main characteristics of the goods or services offered for sale; the identity and contact details of the trader; the total price, including taxes and any additional charges such as delivery fees; and the arrangements for payment, delivery and performance. Additionally, the pre-sale information must remind consumers of the existence of a legal guarantee of conformity for goods.

If consumers choose to exercise their right of withdrawal, they must not use the goods, as the trader may claim compensation for any diminished value

A significant protection consumers have when making off-premises purchases is the right to cancel the contract. This right gives consumers 14 days to reconsider their purchase. The cancellation period begins when the sales contract is finalised and lasts for 14 days after the consumer takes possession of the ordered goods. If the purchase involves a service, the 14-day period starts on the day the sales contract is signed.

The information on the right of withdrawal must be provided to consumers before and upon concluding the off-premises sales. If this information is not provided, then the withdrawal period is legally extended to one year. If consumers are informed about their cancellation rights during this extended period, the withdrawal period will expire 14 days after the day they receive this information.

If consumers decide to cancel an off-premises sale, they are entitled to a full refund, including the cost of standard delivery. Additionally, if the goods cannot be returned by post, it is the seller’s responsibility to collect the unwanted items from the consumer’s home.

It should, however, be noted, that for off-premises sales, consumers should not be asked to pay anything before the ordered goods are delivered. If the goods are delivered in parts, the trader can request payment for the part that has been delivered. If a deposit is required, it must not exceed 10 per cent of the total cost and cannot be requested before the 14-day cancellation period has expired.

Certain off-premises contracts cannot be cancelled. These include goods made to the consumers’ specifications or clearly personalised; goods likely to deteriorate or expire rapidly; and unsealed goods unsuitable for return due to hygiene reasons. The same applies to services that have been performed with the consumers’ consent, and digital content that has been downloaded following the consumers’ express agreement to lose the right of withdrawal once the download begins.

Additionally, contracts for accommodation, transport of goods, car rental services, catering, or leisure activities cannot be cancelled if they specify a particular date or period of performance.

Consumers who buy goods or services off premises do not only have rights but also responsibilities.

First, they must read and understand the terms and conditions of sale they are agreeing to. Where necessary, consumers should seek clarification of any unclear terms before completing the transaction.

Consumers should also check the products delivered and ensure that they are free from visible defects. During the 14-day withdrawal period, consumers must decide if they intend to keep the goods.

If consumers choose to exercise their right of withdrawal, they must not use the goods, as the trader may claim compensation for any diminished value. When the contract of sale involves the purchase of a service, and part of the service is used before consumers decide to cancel, they are obliged to pay for the portion of the service already provided.

Regarding the cancellation process, consumers also have the responsibility of informing the trader about their intention to cancel the sale within the specified legal time frame of 14 days. This communication is best made in writing.

If consumers encounter problems or disputes with an off-premises seller, they are advised to first seek information about their legal rights and then communicate with the seller to attempt to reach an amicable solution. If the dispute remains unresolved, consumers may then file a complaint with the Office for Consumer Affairs at the MCCAA for further assistance.


Odette Vella is director, Information and Research Directorate, MCCAA.

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