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02/10/2009
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Unsolicited Items

Under the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971, (as amended) it is an offence to demand payment for goods known to be unsolicited, in other words, they were sent to a person without any prior request made by them or on their behalf.

Someone who receives goods in these circumstances may retain them as an unconditional gift, and does not have to pay for or return any unwanted goods. Anyone who receives a demand for payment for unsolicited goods should report the matter to their local Trading Standards Department.

However, in the case of unsolicited goods received before 1 November 2000, the recipient is required to give notice to the sender to collect them within 30 days, or otherwise to wait for 6 months, before being able to treat the goods as their own property.

Unsolicited Trade Directory Entries

Under the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971, as amended 1975 (UGSA), it is an offence to demand payment for an unsolicited entry in a trade directory.

All business should be vigilant to the possibility of invoices for both goods and services they have not ordered. Many such demands come from abroad. All companies who receive unsolicited approaches of this nature should contact their Business Link who can provide useful advice. Anyone who has paid an unsolicited demand of this kind should contact their local Trading Standards department.

The Government amended the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971 in 2005 to reduce administrative burdens for directory publishers and those who choose to place paid entries in directories.

The law was updated to reflect the modern commercial realities of the directory publishing industry, while ensuring that the 1971 Act still provides protection against a number of scams.

  • The authorisation requirements in section 3 of the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971 will no longer apply to repeat entries and renewals, provided that they meet certain criteria.
  • An order for a directory entry made by way of an order form or the advertiser’s own stationery may now be sent electronically as well as in paper form.
  • The requirements formerly in the Unsolicited Goods and Services (Invoices etc) Regulations 1975 have been simplified and updated so that electronic documents may satisfy them as well as paper ones.
  • The information required from the publisher for the written Note of Agreement Method and Electronic Communication Method for placing a directory entry will be the same.

The changes remove unnecessary "red tape" without compromising the rights and freedoms of businesses and of others.

The bulk of these changes were introduced by means of a Regulatory Reform Order, while the electronic Business Order forms were introduced by regulations under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972.