Online Sellers Beware

Businesses selling their goods and services online will need to update their terms and conditions and operating practices to fall in line with the implementation of new European rules, which came into effect on 13 June 2014.

Under the directive, online buyers are now given an extended 14 calendar day cooling-off period (previously 7 working days) in which to claim a full refund. Shoppers are not required to give a reason when cancelling their order. This includes purchases made through online auctions, although only to items sold by professional sellers.

The cooling-off period also now applies to the supply of digital content including music, eBooks and videos. Within the cooling-off period, a buyer cannot be supplied their digital content unless they have given express permission to receive it. If a buyer does gives their consent, they must also acknowledge the fact that they will lose their right to claim a refund once the digital content has begun to download.

The directive also involves rules regarding additional credit card charges, which must be clearly set out from the start of the transaction, and the rate of charge of phone calls from customers. As a seller, you will not be able to charge any more than the going local rate for customer phone calls relating to complaints or post-purchase inquires. However, calls made by customers purchasing goods or services over the phone can still be charged at a higher rate.

Sellers will have to make it clear to the purchaser who is to bear the cost of delivery when returning goods. Purchasers have to be clearly informed if they are to bear such costs; otherwise the seller will pay for delivery by default.

When offering additional goods or services during an online purchase, sellers are now prohibited from using pre-ticked boxes which force the purchaser to manually untick boxes in order to remove the extra goods or services.

Businesses should ensure that they are being pro-active; if you have not already done so, make sure to follow the guidance above. If you are still unsure on how, or if, these changes will affect your business, we will be happy to advise you.

Ellis Walls
Trainee Solicitor – Corporate & Commercial 

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