Last month, the new EU Consumer Rights Directive passed into law across the European Union. Strengthening consumer rights in a number of areas, this new directive has implications for companies and businesses offering products and services via the internet.
The key changes impacting on business are:
- Traders will not be allowed to charge more for credit card payments than it costs them to provide such a payment option.
- The period for consumers to pull out of any distance purchase (e.g. something bought online) or off-premise purchase (e.g. when a seller visits the consumer’s home) is extended to 14 days. These 14 days start from the day the consumer receives the goods.
- Significantly – if a business has not informed a customer of their rights to cancel within 14 days clearly at the time of purchase, then the period at which a refund can be applied for is extended to ONE YEAR.
- Any refund arising owing to the above, must be processed and issued to the consumer within 14 days, down from the previous 30 day period.
- The right to cancel is also extended to online auctions, such as eBay, if the goods are purchased from professional sellers.
- If retailers want the consumer to bear the cost of returning the goods then it must clearly inform the consumer of this in advance and may need to provide an estimate in advance.
- There is an exemption for small businesses and craftsmen, in that will be no right to pull out of a contract for urgent repairs and maintenance jobs
What to do as a business?
These changes represent a shift in the balance between traders and consumers. For businesses selling online, now is the time to check that your terms and conditions and your general policies are compliant with the new rules, ensuring that the consumer is presented with the right information at the right time, so that your business is not exposed to future claims or a longer cooling-off period.