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I roughly recall that the distance selling regulations were superseded and thus “rolled into” the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

And they included a special right of withdrawal that applied to contracts concluded online. I also roughly recall that the CRA2015 preserved all of those provisions but just consolidated them into one unified act apart from certain transactions that continued to be governed by for example the sale of goods act 1979.

Is there any reason why such provisions wouldn’t apply to plane tickets that were purchased online? If not, then what are the relevant provisions?

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  • 1
    Good question. I'm especially interested because just yesterday I paid around $20 to hold a couple airline ticket reservations for 3 days until I can confirm I can get the time off... Nov 20, 2023 at 18:26
  • It seems to me like they might possibly not be: looking around at travel information sites, I’d expect them to give explanations of these rights if they are applicable. And yet they don’t appear to, suggesting they aren’t. But it doesn’t make much sense because I can’t see why they wouldn’t unless there’sa specific exemption. Nov 20, 2023 at 19:52

3 Answers 3

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No - passenger transport services are exempt, therefore the company's cancellation conditions apply.

The relevant law is Part 3 of The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, "right to cancel".

Quote from the Explanatory Notes:

Part 3 of the Regulations contains provisions concerning a consumer's right to cancel a distance or off-premises contract without giving any reason or incurring any costs other than those specified. Regulation 29 establishes the right to cancel. Regulation 30 provides for a cancellation period of 14 days calculated from the date of conclusion of the contract or the date of delivery, according to the type of contract.

However, section 27(2)(c) means this right to cancel does not apply to distance or off-premises contracts for "passenger transport services."

Application of Part 3

  1. — (1) This Part applies to distance and off-premises contracts between a trader and a consumer, subject to paragraphs (2) and (3) and regulations 6 and 28.

(2) This Part does not apply to contracts to the extent that they are—

...

(c) for passenger transport services.

...

Incidentally, this is also the case in the - these regulations implemented some provisions of The Consumer Rights Directive and other Directives into UK law, including this right to cancel, aka the "right of withdrawal".

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There is no cooling off period for most contracts including online sales

Cooling-off periods only apply to a limited number of transactions including:

  • telemarketing and door-to-door sales (unsolicited consumer agreements)

  • some contracts for the purchase of land or property

  • some contracts for motor vehicles where the dealer is also arranging the finance

  • contracts with an agency to sell property.

Neither online sales nor airline tickets are contracts with an automatic cooling-off period. Of course, there’s nothing stopping a vendor including such a period or allowing cancellation without penalty as a goodwill gesture.

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In general, there is no cooling-off period for purely online or phone sales in the United States. However, by DOT rule, airlines must offer a 24 hour option. This is codified at 14 CFR § 259.5(b)(4), which states the domestic airline, or foreign airline operating to or from the US, must have a customer service plan which includes

Allowing reservations to be held at the quoted fare without payment, or cancelled without penalty, for at least twenty-four hours after the reservation is made if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight's departure;

Note that there are two ways for an airline to comply: either offer a 24 hour refund or a 24 hour fare hold. Most airlines offer the refund option. I seem to recall one major being hold-only in the past, but now offers both options. Some airlines may voluntarily reduce the 7 day advance purchase requirement, e.g. to 2 days.

Many airlines offer extended hold options, exceeding 24 hours, for a fee. Travel insurance, if purchased, may also cover cancellation either due to a covered reason (e.g. sickness) or for any reason, depending on the policy.

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