Détails actualité

01/06/2012 E-commerce: strengthening consumers’ online rights

With a simpler refunding process and a longer cooling-off period, Europe’s 500 million consumers have reason to be happy. After three years of negotiations, the directive on consumer rights was adopted on June 24th by the European Parliament. The text relates to sales and services contracts between companies and consumers, in particular distance and off-premises contracts.

A new cooling-off period of 14 days

The new directive – adopted by a large majority of MEPs – strengthens consumer rights in several ways.

Among the most noteworthy measures in the text is extending the cooling-off period. Currently this stands at seven days in most Member States (including France) but will be 14 days under the new directive.

This is regardless of where the goods were bought in Europe. From the moment the purchase is made on the internet, telephone, by email or by a door-to-door salesman, it can be returned in the two weeks following purchase.

The cost of returning the goods, in the case of online goods, is usually the responsibility of the client. The cooling-off period has been extended to online auctions such as eBay. However, the goods bought at auction can only be returned if they were bought from a professional seller.

The sellers also have a fourteen-day period to reimburse their clients. They are responsible for loss or damage that occurs during delivery. However, the consumer must pay for returning goods to the sender.

Deliveries must be carried out within 30 days maximum. The buyer can withdraw without providing a reason after this deadline has passed.

“It is particularly encouraging that European legislation is finally dealing with the issue of e-trade”, said Damien Abad, Philippe Juvin and Constance Le Grip, members of the Parliament’s internal markets committee (IMCO), and this was echoed by their colleague Marielle Gallo, member of the legal affairs committee (JURI).

Security to buy online

In order to further protect online sales, the new directive plans to remove hidden costs and fees. Ready-filled forms and pre-ticked boxes can no longer be used by sellers.

Supplementary options such as travel insurance or vehicle rental, which are often suggested when buying an airline ticket online, will now be forbidden across the European Union.

Henceforth, fraudsters will not be able to tempt consumers into paying for “free” services such as horoscopes or recipes.

Consumers will have to expressly state that they understand that the service is a paid one.

The steps in the legislative procedure

2008 : European Commission proposal

June 6th 2011
: Agreement between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU

September 2011
: Formal approval from the Council of the EU

Autumn 2011: Publication of the new directive in the Official Journal of the EU

End of 2013: Transposition of the directive into national legislation

In the case of online purchases, the final price must be indicated before the order is confirmed; any supplementary amounts are to be paid by the seller.

It should be noted that digital goods such as music, films or software programs are exempt from the right to withdraw. They are considered sold from the moment downloading starts.

The directive, work for which started in 2008, is expected to be published in the Official Journal of the EU next September. The text will then be transposed before the end of 2013 at the latest.

"The European Commission will ensure that the new provisions are rapidly transposed in all Member States in such a way that consumers throughout Europe can have greater confidence making their purchases – online or otherwise", stated Viviane Reding.

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