New website rules—a Q&A on telephone charges

New website rules—a Q&A on telephone charges

So only 4 days to go until new e-commerce laws some into force (eg Friday 13 June).

Today we concentrate on what businesses need to know about what they can charge customers when customers phone them. 

What are the obligations to set out the basic rate cost of a telephone call?

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (the Consumer Contract Regulations) set out a number of obligations on traders regarding telephone charges. The Consumer Contracts Regulations, which came into force on 13 June 2014, state at reg 41(1):

where a trader operates a telephone line for the purpose of consumers contacting the trader by telephone in relation to contracts entered into with the trader, a consumer contacting the trader must not be bound to pay more than the basic rate

In addition, the Consumer Contract Regulations, Sch 2, para (i) states there is an obligation to provide information to the consumer (under the Consumer Contract Regulations, reg 10(1) and 13(1)) where:

the cost of using the means of distance communication for the conclusion of the contract where that cost is calculated other than at the basic rate

Is the term 'basic rate' defined?

The term is not defined anywhere within the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

Do I have to operate a helpline?

The Consumer Contracts Regulations do not impose an obligation on a trader to provide a helpline; however if a trader does and if the consumer is charged more than the basic rate for the telephone calls, then the consumer can claim the excess amount back from the trader as a contractual claim under the terms of the Consumer Contract Regulations, reg 41(2).

That said, bear in mind that under the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 reg 6(1)(c), a trader must provide the customer with a way of contacting the seller using direct and effective communication. A trader is required to supply to a customer, before the conclusion of a contract with him or her, in addition to its e-mail address, other information which allows the trader to be contacted rapidly and commu

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