An off-premises sale occurs when goods and services are offered for sale to consumers outside the traditional brick-and-mortar stores. These kinds of sales are usually concluded at the consumers’ home or in the street.
A sale that starts in the street and immediately afterwards is concluded at the seller’s premises is also considered off-premises. A case in point is when a seller stops a consumer in the street to promote a specific product or service, and then the same consumer is escorted to the shop to conclude the sale.
While this type of shopping provides several benefits to consumers, it also comes with potential risks. So it is important for consumers to understand their rights and responsibilities when making these type of purchases to ensure a safe shopping experience.
When consumers buy a product or service off-premises, they have additional legal protection. In fact, if the amount paid for the product or service exceeds €30, consumers are legally entitled to a cancellation period of 14 days during which they can change their mind, cancel the sale, and request a full refund of the money paid. This cancellation period starts on the day the consumers conclude the contract and ends 14 days after they receive the product purchased. With regard to services, the cancellation period ends 14 days after the sales contract is signed.
Information on this right to cancel the sale must be provided by the off-premises seller when the sales contract is concluded. If consumers are not informed about this right, then the 14-day limit is automatically extended to one year or to 14 days after the day upon which consumers receive the information.
If consumers decide to cancel an off-premises sale, if the goods have already been delivered to them, the seller is obliged to collect the goods back if they are too bulky to be returned to the seller by post.
If the amount paid for the product or service exceeds €30, consumers are legally entitled to a cancellation period of 14 days
When the contract of sale concerns the purchase of a service, and part of the service is used during the 14-day cancellation period, consumers are expected to pay for the service provided. In situations where all the service has been supplied, consumers can no longer exercise their cancellation rights.
Besides information on the right of withdrawal, before being bound by an off-premises contract, consumers must also be provided with specific information about the sale they are about to conclude. This information must be supplied in writing and should include the following: the main characteristics of the product or service agreed upon; the identity of the trader and their contact details; the total cost of the goods or services. The price must be inclusive of any compulsory charges, including taxes, as well as, where applicable, delivery or postal charges; the arrangements for payment and delivery of the goods or performance of services; and a reminder that the goods purchased are protected by the two-year legal guarantee.
If the sale concerns the provision of an ongoing service, consumers should also be informed about the duration of the contract, and if the contract is of indeterminate duration, the conditions of terminating the contract.
Upon concluding an off-premises contract, consumers should not be asked to pay anything before the goods ordered are delivered. Where the goods are delivered in parts, the trader can only request payment of 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 of the goods ordered. Furthermore, this deposit should not be requested by traders before the 14-day cancellation period expires.
When purchasing goods and services off-premises, consumers must also assume some responsibilities, namely: reading and understanding the terms and conditions of the sale; checking the products upon delivery to ensure they are free from any defects; and deciding whether or not they are going to exercise their cancellation rights. If consumers intend to return the goods, it is important that they do not use them. If they do, the trader may hold them liable for diminished value.
Should consumers encounter problems or have a dispute with an off-premises seller, they must first seek information about their legal rights and then communicate with the seller with the aim of reaching an amicable solution. If the dispute remains unresolved, consumers may then register a complaint with the MCCAA’s Office for Consumer Affairs for further assistance.
Odette Vella is director, Information and Research Directorate, MCCAA.