Office of Fair Trading
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OFT announces clearer terms for consumers buying home improvement materials

Following discussions with the OFT, the Builders Merchants Federation is making its terms and conditions clearer and fairer for consumers who buy materials for home improvements such as bathrooms, kitchens, heating equipments and tiles.

The Builders Merchants Federation represents almost 500 merchant and distributor companies and outlets in the UK with annual sales of over £7billion. It approached the OFT for advice on improving its terms and conditions for consumers as a result of builders merchants increasingly selling directly to households, rather than simply engaging in traditional business-to-business sales and distribution.

Its members have agreed to implement revised terms and conditions with a view to complying with the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations (UTCCRs). The improvements to members' contracts include:
  • clarification of circumstances under which a written quotation may vary and how the consumer can confirm or cancel the contract in exchange for a full refund
  • improved cancellation rights for consumers without any penalties where there is a significant increase in price
  • clearer language ensuring terms are plain and intelligible, and
  • the amendment of terms relating to exclusions of liability.

Jason Freeman, Legal Director, OFT Consumer Markets Group, said:

'It is important that merchants and distributors, like any other business that trade directly with consumers, use terms which are clear, fair and easy to understand. We have worked closely with the Builders Merchants Federation to secure these changes and we believe they will improve confidence and clarity for merchants, distributors and their customers.'

NOTES

1. The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) is the UK trade association representing the majority of companies in building materials' distribution. Members are stockists of everyday building, heating, insulation, plumbing and timber products as well as the major manufacturers and distributors.

2. The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 (UTCCRs) protect consumers against unfair standard terms in contracts they make with traders. The OFT, together with certain other bodies, can take legal action to prevent the use of such terms. The UTCCRs can protect consumers from terms that reduce their statutory or common law rights and from terms that seek to impose unfair burdens on the consumer over and above the obligations of ordinary rules of law.

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