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Are you a trader?

An important first step is to establish whether you are selling online in a personal or business capacity. Online platforms and marketplaces may have their own thresholds to determine when a seller should be classed as a business – for example, based upon volume of sales. However, such thresholds are often for the platform's administrative purposes, and are different from the legal definition of a business or trader.

Under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (CCRs) the definition of a trader was recently clarified by a judgment from the Court of Justice of the European Union (Case C-105/17 Komisia za zashtita na potrebitelite v Kamenova [2018]. The court stated that, in order to be classified as a 'trader', within the meaning of the Directive, it is necessary that the person concerned should be acting "for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession" or in the name of or on behalf of a trader.

This means that the mere fact of selling on a website does not automatically make a person a 'trader', but if the sales are for purposes relating to their trade, business, craft or profession then they will be considered to be a trader.

If this is not the case, then they are more likely to be selling occasional items online, and many aspects of the below guidance do not apply.

Whilst some laws define traders in a narrower way than the above CCRs, by following this guidance you will have less chance of misunderstanding and inadvertently breaching the law.

Are you selling to consumers or businesses?

The CCRs define a consumer as a person who is buying goods for their own personal use "wholly or mainly" outside of their trade, business or profession. If you sell goods on an internet marketplace you are likely to be making them available to both consumers and businesses.

There are some laws governing the sale of goods which should always be respected regardless of whether you sell to businesses or consumers; however, the guidance given in this document only applies to contracts between businesses and consumers.

Do you sell within Europe?

If you offer your goods online to buyers outside the UK, you must still comply with the legal requirements provided in this guidance. This is because the majority of consumer law is harmonised across the European Union Member States. So, for example, the online sales laws require businesses in other EU countries to provide the same level of protection and rights to consumers as sellers do in the UK. By complying with the law, you have the advantage of being able to legally sell your items online across the whole of Europe (unless other country-specific rules apply to your products or mandatory rules which exceed the UK's consumer protection laws apply. For more details please see section 4.4 of this guide).

Please note, if you do not make your products available to customers outside the EU, geo-blocking rules may apply, unless your decision is carefully justified. Further details are available in section 4.3 of this guidance.Back to top