Selling online or over the phone? Contract rules for businesses

If you are a business that is selling goods or services online, over the phone, or by email or fax, your contract with consumers is considered a distance sales contract. This is because either the transaction isn’t done in person, and/or your potential customer can’t inspect the goods beforehand.

The distance sales rules apply to BC-based businesses and any business dealing with a BC customer.

Examples of distance sales:

  • the online sales of furniture
  • booking travel through a website or by phone
  • booking an event venue online or by email

Gift cards are not considered to be distance sales contracts.

There are laws in BC that you must follow when it comes to distance sales, especially when it comes to the details you must give to your potential customer before they buy, the information that needs to be in your contract once they buy as well as your customer’s cancellation rights. If your contract doesn’t have everything it should, your customer may be able to cancel it and get a refund.

Not following the rules can also result in financial penalties and/or enforcement actions and have reputational impacts on your business.

The law in BC

As a business engaged in distance sales, think about your contracts as a two-part process.

  1. there is specific information you must legally tell your potential customer before they buy your product or service. Think of this as being part of your quote.
  2. once your customer makes their purchase, your contract with them must include everything that you were initially required to disclose to them, plus other details.

There are also rules around how and when you give them a copy of the contract as well as cancellation rights.

The information on this page is not a full list of your business obligations. Please read BC’s consumer protection laws in full.

It’s important to understand that there may be other laws that apply to your contracts, including ones that we don’t oversee. We recommend that you do your research and have a lawyer review your contracts.

Read the official definition of a distance sales contract.
Read about the rules for these contracts in Division 4 of the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act.

This information is an overview of your obligations under BC’s consumer protection laws. Please read the Consumer Contracts Regulation and the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act in full to understand all your obligations and your customers’ cancellation rights.

We also recommend that you do your research to find out what other laws may apply to your contracts and have a lawyer review them.

Your customers can file a complaint with our office if they believe that you have breached the law.