World Consumer Rights Day - Part 1
Arguably the biggest change to shopping in the 21st century has been the increased popularity of online shopping; it's become the norm for many people. As this trend to shop online has grown, it has led to more money being spent. Mobile phones, computers, cameras or TVs are said to be some of the most popular goods bought online.
Facts and Figures
According to recent figures (the ECC-Net’s 10th anniversary report in 2015) one in six businesses now sells online and e-commerce accounts for 7% of retail turnover in the EU as a whole.
Now, on World Consumer Rights Day (15 March 2017), the UK European Consumer Centre is raising awareness of consumer rights when purchasing online, urging consumers to know what they are entitled to.
What trends have we seen at the UK ECC?
Our consumer advisors make a note of how consumers bought items or services they complained about. In recent years, the UK ECC's Annual Report has shown that UK consumers appear to be embracing e-commerce increasingly.
However, many people shopping online within the EU may not fully understand what rights they have for online purchases, or what rules traders need to follow. New consumer rights came into force on 13 June 2014, with the Consumer Contracts Regulations replacing the old Distance Selling Directive and the Doorstep Selling Regulations.
The Consumer Contracts Regulations harmonised key consumer rights across the EU for all types of ‘distance contracts’ purchases such as online, email, phone or post since June 2014. This saw one of the biggest changes in consumer law for some years, reducing several pieces of legislation into one and making consumer rights clearer and easier to understand. Also, for the first time, there was better protection when buying digital products and shopping online.
What do these Regulations do for consumers?
The Regulations mean that consumers have a 14 calendar day cooling-off period, ending 14 days from the day after the goods are received. During this time the contract can be cancelled for any reason, including a change of mind. Consumers must notify the trader of the cancellation and can then expect to receive a reimbursement within 14 days. Unless otherwise stated in the terms and conditions, the return fee is payable by the consumer.
The Regulations, which cover any ‘distance contracts’ such as online, email, phone or post, also mean that:
- Goods should be delivered within 30 days, unless a fixed delivery date is agreed
- Traders can deduct money for signs of Unreasonable use during the cancellation period
- Consumers must be given details of cancellation rights, return costs, complaints procedure and redress
- Online order buttons must be labelled with 'obligation to pay' or similar clear wording
- Specific consent must be obtained for extra payments such as insurance. Pre-ticked boxes would not comply
How the latest EU rights can help you
New rights have also been given to consumers aimed at making it easier for shoppers to resolve disputes, with online traders.
Traders now have an obligation to make consumers aware of an independent, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) body which can resolve such disagreements with online traders. At present the trader is not obliged to use the indicated body but many do.
Once a trader has indicated that they are willing to use an ADR body, a consumer may choose to log and manage their complaint through a new online complaint handling platform, the Online Dispute Resolution Platform. Online traders are required to carry a link to this platform, on their websites. Read more about it here: https://www.odrcontactpoint.uk/
In all cases consumers must first attempt to resolve the complaint directly with the trader. Online traders also have to provide their email address so that the consumer has a first point of contact.
A few words from our Director
Andy Allen, UK ECC Director, said: "The UK ECC has a vital role to play in helping the thousands of UK consumers who find themselves in dispute with EU companies over problems with purchases.
"The service is an essential part of a consumer's armoury in their bid to get what is rightfully theirs. The UK ECC has a team of consumer advisors on hand to inform consumers of their consumer rights under European and national consumer legislation, give advice on ways of dealing with a consumer's complaint and provide direct assistance in resolving the complaint. The UK ECC provides FREE government funded advice for consumers who are in dispute with a trader who are in another country.
"As we enter the digital age, the marketplace is changing. We need to be sure that consumers still have the rights and protections that they currently enjoy in the traditional marketplace. It is important that consumers have the information they need to buy products from another country with confidence, and the UK ECC plays an important role in achieving this. With more and more consumers expected to shop online in the future, the UK ECC's role in resolving cross-border disputes will become more important than ever in advising consumers, and ensuring that their rights are upheld."
UK consumers can use the advice and support of the UK European Consumer Centre if they have a dispute with a trader based in an EU country - 01268 886690 between 9am and 5pm or www.ukecc.net