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Rules for Selling Goods and Services

There are legal considerations to be aware of when running a company that sells goods and services. Check out the regulations for sale of goods and services in the United Kingdom. The term 'services' has many variances when used to cover a wide variety of work. Thus, a service can be small without written details (e.g. repairs to a car) or a major undertaking (e.g. building work).

Trade and Treat Customers with Fairness

Robust legislation has a big effect on the sale of goods in Great Britain. Selling a product to a customer enters the seller into an agreement (or a contract) with the purchaser.

The legal rights of a customer protect them if the goods they pay for do not ‘conform to contract’. In simple terms that means the goods or services are faulty in some way.

Implied and Statutory Rights of Customers

Understanding the implied rights of customers is important if you run a company selling goods and services. The existence of consumer protection rights are an automatic entitlement by law. Thus, there is no lawful requirement for them to be agreed upon in advance of a purchase.

Consumer Rights Act 2015

The current Consumer Rights Act replaces the outdated Sale of Goods Act 1979. It places an obligation on anyone selling goods and services. In short, they must ensure they are fit for purpose, as described, and of satisfactory quality.

Items must be free from any defects or faults and be of a reasonable appearance. They must correspond with any description applied to it, whether as advertised by sign or by verbal methods.

Customers have the right to reject goods that do not meet the criteria. They can also demand a refund if they are not in acceptance. Accepting the sale of faulty goods or services would mean the customer:

  • Has informed the seller that they accepted the item (even if it was defective or faulty).
  • Used the item in a way that means it cannot be returned in its original state.
  • Retained the item for a period of time without informing the seller that they wanted to return it.

Note: There is no obligation by law for the seller to offer a refund to a customer if the person who bought it:

  • Knew that the item was faulty before they paid for it.
  • Can only show a breach so slight that makes it ‘unreasonable’ for the seller to allow a refund.
  • Damaged the product by attempting to repair it themselves or by enlisting the services of a third party.
  • No longer wants the item because it fails to match their preferences (e.g. the wrong colour). An exception may apply if the customer bought an item without seeing it beforehand.

Note: Certain products must be faulty to get a refund (e.g. CDs, magazines, newspapers, and perishables).

Sale of Goods and Services Law Guide

Advertising and Marketing Laws

The UK laws on marketing and advertising are rigorous and prohibit all unfair commercial practices. You must ensure any advertising, including direct marketing, meets the current regulations.

Contracts and Tenders

Find a Contract

You can search online for current tenders and opportunities. Use the Government Contracts Finder utility to look for contracts worth £10,000 and over.

The Public Sector

There are different ways to sell services when tendering for public sector contracts. The help guide also explains how to supply digital services through the Digital Marketplace, and others.

Note: You can check online to see when large businesses pay their suppliers in the UK. The report shows the average time they take and the proportion of invoice they fail to pay on time.

Data Protection for Small Business

General Data Protection Regulation

The Data Protection Act 2018 updates data protection regulations for small business. So how does the digital age affect small businesses and how must they respond to stay within the law?

Right of Access

Organisations must respond to a data protection request (also called subject access request) in a timely manner. Check what information you need to provide and the penalty for failing to comply.

Door to Door Sales Laws

Doorstep Selling

Often called cold calling, door to door selling is not illegal in the United Kingdom. Even so, canvassers must follow doorstep selling regulations to avoid penalties and prosecution.

Pedlar’s Licence

You will need a pedlar’s certificate to sell door to door or in the street without a stall. Check eligibility requirements, how to apply for a pedlar’s licence, and the penalties for trading without one.

Entertainment and Modelling Agencies

An entertainment and modelling agency will charge fees for finding work. The guide explains the rules that cover how entertainment and modelling agencies work in United Kingdom.

Invoicing and Taking Payments

The guide explains the process for invoicing and taking payment from customers after a sale. Check a list of what invoices must include and how to manage customer payment options.

Returns and Refunds

When it comes to accepting returns and giving refunds the law can be confusing. Check when you must offer a refund, repair, or replacement, and penalties for deceiving customers.

Note: As a general rule, offering credit to consumers means you would need to get authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority and join the Financial Services Register.

Online and Distance Selling

Distance Selling

The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 came into force on the 13th of June 2014. They implement legislation for online and distance selling and the rights of consumers.

Online Selling

Selling through the Internet means you need to follow online selling regulations. Check extra rules that apply when selling digital services such as downloads and streaming services.

Note: It pays to do some research before ordering goods via the Internet. Learn how to avoid a bad experience and know your rights when shopping online.

Trading Hours for Retailers

Normal business hours vary depending on whether it’s classed as a small or a large shop. Check the law on trading hours for retailers and Sunday trading restrictions in United Kingdom.

Unfair Sales Contract Terms

Product Labelling

The rules on product labelling contain few restrictions for most sellers and traders. Even so, some product labelling requirements apply for retailers and manufacturers in certain business sectors.

Sales Contracts

There are strict rules on using unfair terms in sales contracts for consumers and business. They fall under the Unfair Contract Terms Act and Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.

Note: Contact the local Trading Standards office to complain about illegal sales activities. As a business owner you can also check to ensure you are trading in a legal manner.

Weights and Measures Law

The Weights and Measures Act 1985 provides trading standards for packaging and selling products. The section highlights the key weights and measures regulations used in the UK.

Sale of Goods and Services Law Guide for the United Kingdom