Unsolicited goods received through the post
Updated 7 March 2017
Words you may need to know
Unsolicited – not ordered, asked for, requested or agreed to
Advertisements - a public announcement in a newspaper or on the radio, television, or Internet advertising something such as a product for sale or an event
Unconditional gift - free to do with as you wish, no strings attached
Disposing of - get rid of, throw or give away
What are unsolicited goods?
Unsolicited goods are those which have been sent to you without you having requested them and which you have not ordered.
If they were sent to you by a Jersey trader, the Distance Selling (Jersey) Law 2007 state that you can treat these goods as an 'unconditional gift'. In other words, you can keep the goods or give them away, sell them, use them or destroy them, and the trader cannot demand payment for them. Always check first, as you may not realise you agreed for the goods to be sent to you.
Do I have any protection under the law?
The law makes it a criminal offence for traders to demand payment or threaten legal action to obtain payment for ‘unsolicited’ goods or services.
If you have been sent unsolicited goods from a UK or EU trader, you should have equivalent protection.
Where can I get help?
Always contact Trading Standards for advice before disposing of goods, ignoring or refusing payment demands or making any payments.
Examples of goods which are not treated as ‘unconditional’
- You joined a book club and in accordance with the terms and conditions you are sent the ‘editors choice’ on a regular basis
- You have purchased goods or services at a distance (for example online) and were advised that in the event that the goods or services were unavailable, the supplier would supply substitute goods or services of equivalent quality and price
- You entered into a ‘free trial’ for goods or services and failed to cancel within the allocated time in accordance with the terms and conditions
How can I stop receiving goods I did not order?
- Make sure you read the terms and conditions of any clubs very carefully and opt out of receiving ‘editors choices’. It can become very expensive and inconvenient to arrange for their return. Take care as this may not be an option and you may be committed to a minimum number of purchases within a set period of time.
- If you buy goods or services at a distance, for example online or through a catalogue, watch out for substitutes. You should be made aware of this before you place your order but this may be hidden in the general terms and conditions. Check before you buy. In any case, you should not be responsible for the costs of returning substitute goods if they are not suitable.
- If you purchased goods or services from outside Jersey, the UK or EU you are unlikely to have the same protection. You may think you are buying from a UK seller when in fact they are not. Examples include Amazon ‘sellers’. Click on the seller’s name to obtain more detailed seller information.
- Avoid ‘free trails’ in advertisements. In accepting the trial you may not be fully aware of what you are agreeing to, it is easy to forget to cancel and when you notice the payment has gone through your account, is often too late.
When are goods unsolicited?
If you have ordered books, videos, CD's etc - check the small print as you may have agreed to purchase further goods (i.e. another five books in the next twelve months from their catalogue). You may have also inadvertently agreed to be sent 'the book of the month' or 'editor's choice'. These are NOT unsolicited goods. You need to contact the company and 'opt out' of receiving these goods. If necessary - you should follow this up in writing and keep a copy.
When answering advertisements for Free Trials it is common practice to be asked for a credit card number, if you don't then cancel a subscription by a certain date it could involve you in a contract for a set period of time, or ongoing. Care should be taken to make sure that action is taken by the given date if the service/goods are not required. If you don't act, it would mean that the goods or service are NOT unsolicited.
If you have received goods following a prize draw promotion, when you have been notified of 'winning numbers' and have to return a form you should take care to examine the small print. You may have inadvertently agreed to receive goods which are therefore NOT unsolicited.
Any goods which have not been ordered and which do not fall within those described above (or are not very similar) would be unsolicited goods. If you are not sure, you can contact Trading Standards. Basically any goods that arrive 'out of the blue' would be unsolicited. You need to think very carefully as to whether you have perhaps returned a competition flier or in some way 'invited' goods to be offered.
Dealing with unsolicited goods
In the first instance, if you have been sent or been invoiced for unsolicited goods or services you can go to Trading Standards who will investigate and deal with the goods / services on your behalf. NOTE: This is after they have made sure that the goods are genuinely unsolicited.
If you are certain that the goods or services have not been ordered in any way (even through small print or a telephone call) then the Distance Selling Regulations in the UK provides for them to be treated as an unconditional gift, and you can either keep them or get rid of them - whichever you prefer.
If you are not sure about whether or not you ordered the goods / services you should write to the company stating that the goods were not ordered and ask the supplier to arrange for collection. The supplier should be reminded that Jersey does not operate the same return procedures through our post offices and they may need to send a cheque or postal order to cover your postage and packaging - it should be made clear that sending postage stamps will not work as UK stamps are not valid. You should state clearly that if these arrangements are not made within a set time period or you do not hear back from them, then the goods will be treated as abandoned and disposed of. Thirty days might be fair in this situation. You must keep a copy of the letter.
When a company presses for payment
If the company starts chasing you for payment you should write to them making it clear that the goods or services were unsolicited, and if necessary ask the company for proof that you ordered the goods / services. If they continue to press for payment notify Trading Standards.