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European consumer rights: A new directive

european cross border consumer150 million European citizens shops over the internet. 30 million of them shop cross border online in the EU. European cross border shoppers spend on average €800 a year, i.e. a total of €24 billion. What rights do European consumers have?

Thursday 23 June, European delegates have deeply changed online European consumer rights adopting by 615 votes to 16, with 21 abstentions a new European Consumer directive.

This new law is to be enforced within two years in the 27 European member states.

What are the good news, what are the bad news?

The following are the ten most important changes for consumers in the new Directive [text from the directive]:

  • The proposal will eliminate hidden charges and costs on the Internet – no more getting caught into getting a free horoscope that you have to pay for in the end
  • Increased price transparency – this means the online retailer will now have to tell you about all costs, for instance a UK online store shipping goods from Singapore will have to tell you about customs duties before you finalise your payment
  • Banning pre-ticked boxes on websites – no more imposed insurance fees when booking a ticket an online, no more imposed newsletters, no more imposed extra warranty terms when buying a camera online, etc
  • 14 Days to change your mind on a purchase, goods or services – a key point i will detail:
    • Extra protection for lack of information: if the buyer was not fully informed of the withdrawal rules pre-purchase, the buyer has up to a year to cancel his/her order
    • Consumers have a right of withdrawal for solicited visits, such as when a trader called beforehand and pressed the consumer to agree to a visit (no more foot in the door sales people!)
    • The right of withdrawal is extended to online auctions – such as eBay but the right is only applicable in the case of a professional seller (define professional seller?)
    • The withdrawal period will start from the moment the consumer receives the goods, vs. right now the sales contract date! – bad news for retailers, as it means a Greek buyer can receive the shoes he ordered online from an online irish retailer and will have 14 days to return the shoes from the date he received the shoes…
      • Very important fine print – The rules will apply to internet, phone and mail order sales, as well as to sales outside shops, for example on the consumer’s doorstep, in the street, at a Tupperware type of party or during an excursion organised by the trader.
  • Better refund rights- retailers will refund consumers in full for the product within 14 days of the withdrawal. This includes the costs of delivery. In general, the trader will bear the risk for any damage to goods during transportation, until the consumer takes possession of the goods.
  • Introduction of an EU-wide model withdrawal form – ease and speed to to withdraw, wherever you have concluded a contract in the EU.
  • Eliminating surcharges for the use of credit cards and hotlines – no more extra charge if you book your flight ticket online paying with a Visa for instance… And no more Expensive hotlines when ringing your computer manufacturer tech support centre or when ringing your insurance company to follow up on a car accident claim!
  • Clearer information on who pays for returning goods – the trader will have to pay for the returned goods transport costs unless the trader has clearly told the buyer and before the agreement of the sales contract, meaning before you pay for it. for bulk items, the seller must provide an estimated transport cost.
  • Better consumer protection in relation to digital products- this means that a seller must tell its buyer about the limits of copying a music / video file for instance. The seller can withdrawal from that purchase solely up to the downloading process begins.
  • Common rules for businesses will make it easier for them to trade all over Europe.
    • A single set of rules for distance contracts (sales by phone, post or internet) and off-premises contracts (sales away from a company’s premises, such as in the street or the doorstep) in the European Union.
    • Right of withdrawal standard forms.
    • Specific rules will apply to small businesses and craftsmen, such as a plumber. There will be no right of withdrawal for urgent repairs and maintenance work. Member States may also decide to exempt traders who are requested by consumers to carry out repair and maintenance work in their home of a value below €200 from some of the information requirements.

Good news all over for all of us really as we all are buyers…

But bad news for the online retailers…

european buyer now has power

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Christophe Bernigaud

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