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Right of cancellation in distance selling

Does the right to cancel not apply to all distance selling purchases? I booked flights, hotel accommodation and concert tickets through several different service providers online, but I was not allowed to cancel any of my bookings when my plans changed.

The right of cancellation does not apply to all goods and services. These kinds of accommodation, transport and leisure services that are booked for a specific time are among the most typical examples of services to which the right of cancellation does not apply. In other words, service providers do not have to accept cancellations, but it is always worth checking their terms and conditions in case they do. The right of cancellation also does not apply to contracts under which the provision of a service begins before the end of the cooling-off period with the consumer’s consent, goods that are made to measure, goods that have a short shelf-life, goods that are delivered in sealed packaging after the seal has been broken (e.g. sound and video recordings and software), car hire and restaurant services.

If I return goods that I bought online, will I have to pay for the postage and is there a deadline for returning goods?

You will be liable for the costs of returning any unwanted goods unless you have agreed differently with the vendor. The vendor can also be held liable for the costs of returning goods if they did not tell you that you would have to pay for returns. If you decide to cancel your order, you must inform the vendor of this in writing within 14 calendar days of placing your order and return the goods within 14 calendar days of your notice of cancellation.

I was in Sweden and I bought an expensive china set from a local shopping centre there. I wanted to return it the very next day, but the vendor refused to take it back. Do I not always have a right to a 14-day cooling-off period?

Transactions are equally binding on both the vendor and the buyer and neither party can withdraw from the deal unilaterally without consequences. A lot of European stores and chains have a replacement and returns policy, but there is no obligation for them to have one. Always check beforehand whether the store will allow you to return goods if you are unsure about a purchase.

In the context of distance selling (online stores, mail order catalogues, telesales, shopping channels, etc.), on the other hand, consumers can cancel orders without giving a reason across the whole of the EU. The cooling-off period is 14 calendar days. Cancellations must always be in writing. Just returning or not collecting goods that you have ordered is not enough. Please note that the right of cancellation does not apply to all goods and services.

Updated 26.1.2015 Print