A new consumer rights directive will come into force this week on the 13th June, which will have various implications for how online stores conduct business. The full version of the directive can be viewed here, and we have highlighted the main points below in this handy article .
Returns and refunds
The time a customer has to return goods has increased from 7 days to 14. The minimum period of the right to cancel (cooling off period) has also been extended to 14 days. Furthermore, ecommerce businesses must now supply a downloadable form for customers to initiate returns/ cancel contracts.
All refunds must be made within 14 days and the refund must include the cost of the standard postage advertised on the ecommerce website.
“Go”, “buy”, “confirm”, etc are no longer sufficient. Confirm order buttons need to make it explicitly clear that the customer is entering into a contract with a payment obligation. The directive recommends that the final button in the order process should read “order with obligation to pay”, thus leaving no ambiguity concerning the fact that a payment is involved.
Premium rate phone lines
Premium rate customer support and service lines are no longer allowed and all lines must be converted to standard rate or free.
Pre ticked boxes and automatic opts ins (eg: for newsletter subscription) will not be allowed, the customer must tick the box themselves. Hopefully most online retailers no longer use this practice anyway, however, from next week it will be outlawed.
What do you need to do?
Failure to comply with the new regulations will risk costly sanctions. E-tailers will have to do a major overhaul of their sites to ensure everything is clearly labelled and nothing is pre-ticked. Terms and conditions will also have to be reviewed, especially with regards to cancellation rights and customer withdraw. Support staff will also have to be retrained on the new rules and amendments.
The directive could also bring advantages in terms of cross border selling. The biggest European markets in ecommerce are the UK, Germany and France, however, most ecommerce trade is within our own borders. One of the main reason consumers are reluctant to order something from another country is trust, as they are not familiar with the trading laws within the country. This new directive will be harmonised across Europe and make it a lot easier for customers to understand their rights and therefore hopefully make cross border selling easier.