Major Changes Coming to Online Shopping
The Directive’s new rules will apply to all e-shops operating in the European Union, including those based in the Czech Republic. The Directive aims to strengthen consumer confidence in cross-border online shopping and to create an EU internal market in the digital world. EU Member States are required to transpose the Consumer Rights Directive by the end of 2013, with the new legislation to apply in the EU starting in mid-June 2014.
More Information Pre-Order
One major change concerns the information that retailers will have to disclose to the consumer before an order is placed. Under the Directive, the range of information will now be much broader. Clearer information will also need to be provided for digital content, such as computer software, applications, games, music and videos, regardless of whether the content is acquired via downloading, streaming, physical recording, or otherwise. In addition, online retailers will have to state clearly and legibly at the beginning of the ordering process whether the delivery is subject to any restrictions and what types of payment are accepted.
Traders will also be required to ensure that consumers explicitly acknowledge that they agree to pay the purchase price. If an online seller requires the customer to bear the costs for returning undesired goods, it must provide this information clearly and upfront. If it fails to do so, the seller will have to bear the costs itself.
Before the customer confirms an order, retailers will have to disclose the total price of the product or service, including VAT and any additional fees and charges (such as shipping or insurance fees). Consumers will not be required to pay any charges or other costs if they were not properly informed before placing their order. Pre-ticked boxes, which automatically sign consumers up for certain goods and services that they may not want, will be prohibited. As it now stands, customers are forced to un-tick the boxes if they do not want the extra services.
The Directive requires online retailers to deliver goods within 30 days of purchase. The delivery deadline can be extended for certain types of goods, such as custom-made goods. If the e-shop operates a customer hotline, consumers cannot be charged more than a basic telephone rate.
Unified Termination Period
The period for e-shoppers across Europe to terminate the contract and return goods will be unified to 14 days from the date of the sales contract (for services) and 14 days from the receipt of goods (for goods). Where a seller fails to inform the consumer of such right, the deadline will be extended to one year. For custom-made goods and goods whose price depends on market price volatility, however, there will be no option to terminate the sales contract.
The Directive also facilitates the termination process in one further aspect —consumers will more or less be free to choose the method of termination. Several options will be available: (i) a declaration made by the consumer; (ii) an online application on the seller’s website and (iii) a new termination form for the entire EU. If the consumer chooses the web application option, the seller will be required to confirm the termination immediately.
If a consumer terminates a contract, the seller will be required to refund all payments, including standard delivery costs. Once the consumer notifies the seller of its decision, the seller will have up to 14 days to refund the payments.
On the other hand, the customer will be required to return the goods within 14 days, and the seller need not provide the refund until it receives the goods. Plus, if the seller finds there is any excessive wear and tear, under the Directive the consumer will be held liable for the reduced value of the product. But when it comes to damage during shipping, the retailer will bear the risk up until the time when the consumer takes possession of the goods.