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Consumer Rights Directive – what does it mean for you?

The new European Directive on Consumer Rights recently came into force. With the growth of ecommerce in Europe and cross-border selling, the directive aims to further protect consumers and increase their rights when making a purchase online.

It gives clear guidelines on distance selling and in particular, selling online. As an online shop owner there are a few things you’ll need to do but as this article will uncover, they shouldn’t be too much hassle. We’ll cover all of the key points below and what you can do to make sure you’re covered.

Returns

Previously, customers had 7 days to return an item (or ‘withdraw from the contract’). This has now changed to 14 days. You must also let the customer know who will be responsible for the cost of returning the goods, with an estimate of cost if not returnable by standard mail.

Steps to take

Update your shop’s terms and conditions and returns policy to include the new time-frame and returns liability.

Right of withdrawal

Following on from the previous point, customers must be informed about their 14 day right of withdrawal.

Steps to take

Ensure your customers are aware of their right to withdraw within your terms and conditions, returns policy or any of your transactional emails.

Downloadable returns form

Online shops must supply a downloadable form that customers can use to cancel contracts and start the returns process.

Steps to take

To make this step super easy for you, we’ve created a tag which can be placed within the ‘order confirmation email’ template. The tag outputs a link to a downloadable form which outlines all of your customers’ rights to withdraw along with areas to sign and send back to you. You’ll be able to implement the tag within your shop’s outgoing emails settings in the coming weeks when the tag is released. Until this point, you can upload a form to your file manager as a PDF and link to this file in your email template.

Refunds

Once you’ve received the ‘withdrawal/returns’ form from your customer, and the returned item too, you must then issue a refund within 14 days. This is down from the current 30 days. You must also refund the cost of standard postage as advertised on your website.

Steps to take

Terms & conditions will need amending to account for the new refund policy. You should also check that all systems needed to issue a refund are up to date and able to meet this time-frame.

Premium rate phone numbers

Premium rate telephone numbers for customer service are no longer allowed.

Steps to take

If you have any premium rate telephone numbers on your site you must also supply a local rate number that your customers can use to reach you.

Buttons (Pay by credit/debit card)

Call to action (CTA) buttons on your shop such as your ‘Pay by credit/debit card’ buttons must make it clear that a customer has an obligation to pay (for example ‘click here’ is far too generic).

Steps to take

For the majority of ekmPowershop users this point shouldn’t be an issue. Our payment buttons fully comply with the new legislation and indicate that a customer does have an obligation to pay using ‘pay now by credit/debit card’. For those of you that use your own custom buttons, you’ll need to make sure that the text fully complies. A recommendation is that you use the text ‘Order with an obligation to pay’ however ‘Pay now’ will suffice.

Opt-ins & tick boxes

Pre-ticked opt-ins such as subscribing to a newsletter are no longer allowed.

Steps to take

If you’re using automatic opt-ins on your shop you’ll need to remove them. You can use drop-downs or other alternatives but your customer must have to make a selection.

Credit card surcharges

Passing on charges to your customers for paying by credit/debit card, over the cost you actually pay yourself, is now ruled out. If your payment provider is charging you 3% for example, this is the maximum charge you can pass on to your customer.

Steps to take

Adding additional charges during the checkout flow is known to increase cart abandonment so it’s advisable that you factor the card processing costs into the price of your items. If you must put a charge on using credit/debit cards, make sure it isn’t above the rate you’re being charged.

We hope this article clears a few things up, but if you have any further questions please comment below and we’ll help where we can.

Author: Chris Kane is an Online Marketing Expert at ekmPowershop.com, the UK’s leading hosted eCommerce website solution.

16 thoughts on “Consumer Rights Directive – what does it mean for you?

  1. Can you confirm that as I understand it, these regulations only apply to Business to Consumer Transactions and not Business to Business Transactions?

    1. Our understanding is that these rules are only for ‘B2C’ as ‘B2B’ is governed by a different set of regulations.

  2. As I supply and engrave my giftware does the customer have the right for no reason a refund? I can understand if goods are faulty etc. but it seems unfair they can change their mind after it has been engraved.

    1. Hi Peter, this doesn’t apply to personalised goods so you needn’t worry about suffering losses from customers returning those.

  3. Hi Chris, and thanks for the info, but a couple of questions. I noticed that “Able” asks whether to apply to B2B as opposed to B2C ? we expect to sell mostly to B2B but how can one differentiate between them ?.
    also, you seem to differentiate between “Returns” and “Withdrawal”, are they not the same thing (cancellation)? and lastly, in the paragraph called “Returns” you say that the customer must be made aware of who pays return costs but in the paragraph “Refunds” it says we must refund the carriage charges ? can you please clarify. Cheers.

  4. Hi. Does the 14 days right to return start from when the goods are received (which I have always understood it to be in the past) or when the goods are purchased and is this the same for the right to withdraw?
    Right to withdraw sounds like it might apply to a contract of sale when the goods are being made to order and may take, say, 28 days to deliver, in which case I would assume that the right to withdraw would commence from the date of purchase.

    1. Hi Ros, the 14 day period begins from the time that the customer receives the goods. What you’ve mentioned about the right to withdraw is also true, the contract begins at the point of sale.

  5. Another question. Does the Consumer Rights Directive just apply to customer purchases made and delivered within the UK, or does it also apply to purchases from customers abroad? I’m just asking because if a customer from abroad asks to return an item and we have to refund the delivery charge (which can as much as £50) we would suffer financially.

    1. Hi Ros,

      As it’s an EU directive so it applies to all distance selling within the European Union I believe. However, the refund is only for the delivery cost that the customer paid when they bought the item. You don’t have to refund the cost that the customer incurs when they’re sending the item back to you. You could argue that this is a deterrent for the customer who has to pay to send the item back to you.

  6. It appears that everything is now geared up towards the protection of the consumer, whilst leaving us businesses without a leg to stand on, for instance a customer orders from us, we pay for packaging (£8.00 per order) we also pay for postage (£9.78 per order) we also pay for VAT on the sale (variable), we also pay for advertising and running cots (variable) , a customer cancels and we stand to lose MUCH more money than we made in the first place! surely that should not be viable? why should the consumer not have a level of commitment to the order/contract also? at least to a point that doesn’t leave a business actually losing money, can anyone even try to explain the logic here?

    I realise without customers there are no business, but also vise-versa!!! thanks again to the EU for not protecting Us, the business owners that have pulled this country out of recession. Role on referendum!

  7. I forgot to add, we make custom products and made to measure sizes, do the same rules apply? If I make a product and a customer returns it, the product will end up in the furnace, as the chances of selling it again in that style and size is is basically not possible. Im worried here!

  8. Further to Dave’s question; please can someone clarify where makers of custom made products stand… we make custom made products with people selecting their colours/sizes – bespoke to their preferences and nees…so can they change their mind and send the product back plus expecting me to pay the refund….erm…this is hard hitting for small businesses. Grateful for any direction/advice.

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