Better protection of consumer rights and new rules for online shopping

Published 28-09-2012
Following the incorporation into the EEA Agreement of a new Consumer Rights Directive on 28 September 2012, consumers rights in the EEA EFTA States will be strengthened, especially when purchases are made at a distance - such as online - or away from the sellers' business premises.

Under the new directive, Internet buyers will have a 14-day withdrawal period, during which they can change their minds for whatever reason, return the goods and get their money back. To do this, they can use a standard withdrawal form provided by the seller. There are some exceptions to this right of withdrawal, for example, when renting a car or when purchased items are tailor-made.

The directive stipulates that, as a general rule, goods ordered at a distance must be delivered to the buyer within 30 days, otherwise the buyer may cancel the purchase.

The directive will also prohibit traders from charging fees for using a particular payment method that exceed the cost borne by the traders themselves. The new rules will also ban hidden charges. They will bring an end to pre-ticked boxes offering additional services, such as travel insurance, when buying a plane ticket. Traders who operate telephone hotlines allowing the consumer to contact them in relation to the contract will not be able to charge more than the basic telephone rate for telephone calls.

In addition to online shopping and other kinds of distance sales, the directive covers off-premises purchases, including doorstep and home party sales. It also includes information requirements for on-premises contracts.

Constitutional requirements must be fulfilled in Iceland and Norway before the Joint Committee Decision enters into force. The new directive was adopted by the EU on 23 June 2011 and should be implemented in national legislation before 13 June 2014.

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