Hi there, a consumer’s rights in this situation are mainly determined by the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. These Regulations apply to contracts for sales conducted on the trader’s business premises, off the trader’s premises (e.g. at the consumer’s home) and at a distance (e.g. online).
All types of transactions are subject to the requirement by the trader to issue the consumer with specific pre-contractual information, as long as it is not a contract entered off the trader’s premises for a value of less than £42. If this information is not provided then the consumer would not be bound by the contract and it can also be a fineable offence for the trader. Details of the required information can be found here:
· Contracts entered on the trader’s premises - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/3134/schedule/1/made
The above cancellation periods may be extended by up to 12 months if the trader has failed to issue the consumer with notice of their right to cancel. Once that information has been provided within the initial 12 month period, the cancellation rights of 14 days start to run from the date after the consumer receives that information.
If the cancellation rights still apply, you could consider pursuing them for the return of the deposit. Generally, when a person places an order for something and pays a deposit they enter into a legally enforceable contract with the seller. It is implied that the seller has accepted the deposit as security and as proof that the buyer wants to proceed with the contract.
Unless the seller subsequently commits a serious breach of contract, or there was a cancellation clause, the buyer would have no legal right to cancel the agreement and if they do so they will be acting in breach of contract and risk losing their deposit. This is especially true if the deposit was described as non-refundable.
If this was a business seller, they will be subject to certain consumer rules and regulations. For example, you will have some protection under Schedule 2, Regulation 1(d) of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. It states that if the contract has been cancelled after a deposit has been placed you are entitled to have the deposit returned in full, unless the seller has spent time, effort and money, in which case they can deduct reasonable expenses. Even if some expenses have been incurred, if these are subsequently recovered, for example by selling the item to someone else, the deposit should still be returned in full. It follows that a blanket non-refundable clause that entitles the seller to keep the deposit in all circumstances is most likely going to be unfair and unlawful.
If you are having difficulties in recovering the deposit when you believe you are entitled to have it returned, advise the seller that you will not hesitate reporting them to the Office of Fair Trading and, if necessary, pursue the matter further through the county court. Exerting such pressure could often work in changing the seller's position in this matter.