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EU-wide rules for on-line


An EU-wide right for consumers to change their minds about an on-line purchase within two weeks of receiving the good, and new requirements that on-line traders must give buyers precise information on the total price, the goods ordered and the trader's contact details, are among the benefits of new rules approved by Parliament on June 2011.

"We wanted to regulate mainly off-premises and distance contracts such as online trading, as this is where the most cross-border sales take place", commented Parliament's rapporteur and chief negotiator Andreas Schwab (EPP, DE), adding that "The new directive is thus a good example of how more Europe brings more benefits to consumers and traders alike. We have reached a well-balanced deal which meets both calls from consumers and business interests".

In 2010, 40% of EU consumers bought online goods and services over the internet in compared to 26% in 2006, making the internet the most frequently-used distance-selling medium today. However, only 7% of internet users have placed cross-border orders within the EU.

The new EU rules means:

  • 14 days to change your mind (The new rules will stipulate a 14-day EU-wide withdrawal period for distance and off-premises sales (i.e. those in which the consumer cannot see the good before buying it), during which consumers may change their minds. If they regret the purchase, for whatever reason, they may return it. The price paid by the consumer for the good must be refunded within 14 days of the withdrawal. This is a major step forward for consumer rights.)
  • Exceptios to the withdrawal right (Exempted from the right of withdrawal are, for instance, magazines, with the exception of subscripton contracts, car rentals, airline tickets and hotel bookings, goods which deteriorate or expire rapidly, such as foodstuffs or flowers, and customized goods, such as a tailored dress or a made-to-measure coffee table.)
  • Delivery and responsibility for the parcel (Delivery is where many consumers experience disappointment. Under the new rules, any good ordered at a distance must be delivered to the buyer within 30 days, otherwise the consumer will have the right to cancel the purchase. The trader is responsible for any damage or loss of the good during delivery.)
  • The right to make informed choices (It should be clear to consumers from whom they are buying, exactly what they are buying and how much it will cost when shopping online or ordering from a catalogue. The identity and address of the seller must always be clear. The new information rights will also put an end to hidden charges, such as those associated with the "pre-ticked boxes" sometimes used in internet sales.)
  • No extra red tape for small firms and tradesmen (To avoid creating administrative burdens for the local grocer or the workman doing home repairs, "day-to-day transactions" where the good is delivered "immediately" will be exempted from the information rules.)

Concerns about late or non-delivery of goods as well as the patchwork fragmentation of Member States' consumer protection rules are holding consumers back from on-line cross-border shopping. At the same time, businesses cite legislative differences among Member States as the main reason for not selling across borders.

NB: This summary is only for information and is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text. Source:

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