The European Commission has kicked off her Consumer Rights Campaign 2014, informing consumers of their rights when they buy products online. The new Directive on Consumer Rights is supposed to protect consumers against inconveniencies such as “cost traps”, i.e. unexpected costs hidden behind free offers. With the new regulation, the EU wants to deal also with other issues, such as good return policy, transparency and online search.
Ecommerce Europe welcomes the general aim of the Consumer Rights Directive, but some provisions in the Directive can create unreasonable burdens on the industry. During the negotiations over the Consumer Rights Directive, Ecommerce Europe has frequently issued its concerns over possible imbalances in new consumer rights legislation. Return periods and reimbursements schemes have been at the heart of our advocacy. Currently, Ecommerce Europe is in contact with the European Commission in order to set clear guidance rules on what is expected of implementation of the Consumer Rights Directive. The European Commission has informed Ecommerce Europe that they will only be able to publish the guidelines in June 2014.
The general reasoning of the Consumer Rights Directive does have the potential to boost e-commerce in Europe by fostering more consumer trust in the market. Regarding the good return policy, online customers are concerned about how they could obtain reimbursement in case they want to return a product which does not match their expectations. To overcome this obstacle and boost e-commerce, the EU decided to extend the period under which consumers can withdraw from a sales contract from 7 to 14 days and, from now on, this period starts when the customers receive the good.
Regarding the transparency issue, the Commission stated that online shoppers will not have to pay charges or other costs, if they were not properly informed before they place an order. The new regulation requires the traders to reveal the total cost of the transaction, as well as any extra fees, such as extra charges for credit card payments.
Member States have until the 15th of June 2014, the date when the transposition period ends, to implement the Consumer Rights Directive into national law. Ecommerce Europe will gather best practices from Member States where the Directive has been implemented successfully and share these with the members.