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New changes to EU e-Commerce Consumer Law

2014 Amendments to EU e-commerce lawSelling Online? The new EU Regulations governing e-Commerce, will come into play on 13 June 2014. They are likely to have a considerable impact on both traders and consumers.

Consumers are now given an extended period of 14 days cooling off period within which they can cancel off-premises and distance contracts. 

The consumers must be provided with clear instructions by the trader on how they can cancel the contract. The Regulations also stipulate what information must be provided on all e-commerce sites and restrict payment and phone charges that a trader can impose on a consumer.

 

Information to be provided on all e-Commerce sites

For contracts concluded both on- and off-premises, the trader must inform the consumer of specific details, including the price, after sales services and guarantees, the trader’s complaints policy, any additional charges and the cost and duration of delivery.

Where the contract is concluded other than on-premises, additional information such as the right to cancel and the related conditions, time limits and procedures for exercising that right will be required. The trader shall also provide a model cancellation form and a copy or confirmation of the concluded contract to the consumer.

Explicit obligation to pay

Online traders will be specifically required to ensure that consumers clearly acknowledge that their order involves an obligation to pay. This means that where the sale entails clicking a button or a similar action, it should be clearly and obviously labelled to indicate this commitment.

Extension of cancellation period from 7 to 14 days

Consumers can now cancel the contract without reason at any time during this period. However, the consumer is required to pay for the return of the goods unless the trader has either accepted the cost or has failed to inform the consumer of their obligation to pay for the return.

Consumers must return the goods within 14 days of notifying the trader of their decision to cancel although the length of the cancellation period may be extended for up to 12 months if the trader has not informed the consumer of their right to cancel. It is worth noting, however, that a variety of contracts for the sale of goods and services are exempt from this right of cancellation.

The regulations also cover your obligations in situations where ordered goods/services are unavailable.

Restriction on financial and telephone charges

Traders are now restricted in the amount they can charge consumers for using a particular means of payment, such as credit cards. The Regulations limit these fees to what it costs the trader to process the transaction.

Similarly, traders operating a telephone line to allow customers get in contact about their purchase cannot charge more than the cost for calls to an Irish mobile or landline. The Regulations also aim to eliminate hidden charges and costs on the internet by requiring consumers’ express consent for any additional payment to the primary cost for the good or service. This means that traders can no longer rely on default ticked boxes for additional costs and charges.

Where the New Regulations do not apply

It is important to note that the Regulations will not apply to certain contracts, such as contracts for:

  • healthcare;
  • financial services;
  • package holidays/travel
  • contracts for the construction and sale of land/buildings
  • the supply of customised products (such as a T-shirt with the customer’s personal slogan on it)
  • Perishable goods
  • Accommodation in a hotel or guesthouse for specific dates

You need to read the e-commerce regulations for a full list of contracts that are exempt.

What does it mean to you?

If you operate an e-commerce site (or sell anything online), you should examine your order, sale and cancellation process to ensure compliance with the rules. It is important to also be aware that the breach of many of these rules carries the risk of criminal enforcement, including fines and jail time.

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