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The EU Consumer Rights Directive: what retailers need to know

What is the directive?

The EU Consumer Rights Directive is legislation designed to safeguard consumers and retailers across the EU. Its aim is to harmonise the legal landscape across the European Union to ensure that cross boarder eCommerce is strengthened. The UK implementation of the Consumer Rights Directive is mainly done through the new Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, which will enter into force on 13 June 2014.

What does it mean for retailers?

This will require for some, a major overhaul of their systems, processes and training. The key changes and obligations of retailers can be split into four categories, the order button, ticked boxes, right to cancel and refunds.

The order button

The order button will have to explicitly show that the consumer is entering into a contract with a payment obligation. Retailers will no longer be able to use the terms 'Confirm' or 'Buy'.

The legislation suggests that the final button should read "Order with Obligation to Pay". Retailers will need to re-write the text on the button and potentially change the layout of the order page as the new regulations require specific information before the consumer submits their order.

Ticked boxes

Automatically ticked boxes for additional payable services are no longer acceptable.

Retailers can no longer assume the decisions of consumers using pre-ticked boxes. For example, a mobile provider will no longer be able to assume a consumer wants insurance and pre-tick the box when you purchase a mobile.

Right to cancel

The time consumers are allowed to cancel a contract, known as the 'cooling off period' will be extended to 14 days – at present it is only seven working days. Consumers will need to be offered a cancellation form, which can be found at the top of page 26 of this document.  

Retailers should be aware that there will be changes to the exceptions to the right to cancel.

Refunds

Refunds will have to be made within 14 days of receiving the goods and this includes the cost of delivery (other than any special delivery methods).

Good news for the retailer: it's now acceptable to withhold the refund until the goods have been received back from the consumer or the retailer has been informed of the return.

The new rules also state that the retailer can recover any amount, up to the full contract price in cases where the value of the returned goods has diminished as a result of handling which goes beyond what would be possible in a store.

As a result of these changes, businesses will need to re-train staff and re-write their contracts in accordance with the regulations. If you'd like to look into this further, and read more about other topics that will be affected – check out the UK document.

Phillip Smith is UK manager for online certification group Trusted Shops.

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