Consumer Rights Directive and eCommerce

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The Consumer Rights Directive was passed in 2011 and comes into force in summer this year. This is legislation laid out by the EU to simplify consumer rights and has an impact for retailers both online and offline. The majority is good practice that most retailers should be following anyway, but this is a good time to take stock and double check your processes to ensure you stay the right side of the new legislation.

The spirit of the regulations is to tackle ambiguous areas in product descriptions, and misleading practices in the buying process. It is legally backing up retailers moral obligations to be as clear as possible about the goods that they are selling, and the prices and processes with which they are selling them. The full legislation is available on the Government website and below are the salient points that affect those involved with online retail and eCommerce.

Consumer Rights Directive and eCommerce

Extended Cooling Off Period – One of the largest changes is to increase the compulsory minimum cooling off period from 7 days to 14 days. This period starts from when the consumer receives the goods. If the consumer wants a refund within this period then that refund must include the cost of the delivery. The retailer will still be within their rights to withhold the return of the money until they have received the goods back.

Call To Action Buttons – we blogged a while ago about the importance of call to action buttons in getting visitors to convert to sales. Regulations in the new Consumer Rights Directive tackle unclear or misleading call to action buttons. This means buttons such as “confirm” will not be allowed if they are deemed to be misleading and the text should be made to be a clearer reflection of what the button actually means. This is to tackle people buying without realising they are doing so, and unwittingly subscribing to something they thought was a one off.

Automatic Tick Boxes – Companies like Ryanair who are notorious for making their buying process difficult to complete without accidentally adding on “extras” such as insurance, premium services etc, will be forced to change their checkout processes as automatic opt-in tick boxes for added goods/services will be made illegal.

Digital Content – The Consumer Rights Director will firm up the obligations of retailers of content such as ebooks and software, to ensure that they properly describe the content they are selling in terms of it’s size and content. The legislation also entitles consumers to powers of redress if the purchased content doesn’t reach the levels described.

One of the key aims of these directives are to bring the whole of the EU into line and this evening out of the playing field is a positive thing for UK online retailers looking to sell into other EU countries, the majority of whom would most likely be following all the regulations already.

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