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Understanding Consumer Rights Online

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Any business that sells to consumers should ensure that is fully aware of the rules protecting its customers. This is particularly important for the swathe of new online businesses that have started trading recently. Given the nature of online transactions, consumers have been given considerable rights to ensure that they get a fair deal from businesses that they may never come into physical contact with.

The Consumer Rights Directive has attracted much attention with the publication of a government consultation earlier in 2012. 

The Consumer Rights Directive
The Consumer Rights Directive was agreed by the European Commission in 2011 and aimed to help boost the confidence of both consumers and businesses by:
  • Ensuring that consumers have the information and time they need to make good decisions
  • Helping make consumers fully aware of all the cost they are committing to and the implications of any contract
  • Ensuring that traders who treat consumers fairly are not disadvantaged by other businesses using less transparent practices

EU countries are required to introduce new consumer protection laws for these purposes by December 2013 to create a level playing field across Europe. The UK will therefore introduce new laws by late 2013.

There will be a number of changes to existing consumer protection rules which businesses will need to be aware of:
  • Cooling-off period – this will be extended from 7 to 14 days and will start from the point at which consumers receive the goods not when the contract is concluded. The period may be extended to 12 months if inadequate information is provided to the consumer during the sales process.
  • Returns - retailers must inform consumers before a sale that they are liable for the cost of returns.
  • Refunds – the period in which refunds must be provided to the consumer will be reduced from 30 days to 14 days. The refund must include the cost of delivery.
  • Credit Cards – retailers cannot add surcharges for using credit cards. This also applies to other payment methods such as payment telephone lines.
  • Pre-ticked Boxes Banned – additional goods and services cannot be offered by way of pre-ticked boxes. Consumers must positively opt-in.
  • Digital Content – sellers of digital content must make its compatibility with hardware and software clear and the application of any technical protection methods.

It is important that business ensure that they are compliant with consumer protection measures. If you wish to ensure your terms and conditions and company policies are compliant, Rollingsons has experienced lawyers who can assist you. For more information please contact James Crighton via e-mail or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.