New consumer rights changes provide more protection for online shoppers

New legislation came into effect earlier this month

Eoin Clarke
by Eoin Clarke on 19th June, 2014

Consumer rights legislation that protects people in the European Union when making online purchases has been updated to provide even more protection.

Excessive credit or debit card fees are no longer allowed and customers now have a two-week cancellation period should they decide they don’t want a product.

The legislation, part of the European Union (Consumer Information, cancellation and other rates) Regulations 2013, came into force on June 14.

With more people choosing to shop online, the Consumer Rights Directive is aiming to strengthen rights against hidden fees and other charges.

Getting your head around the figures

Around €13bn is spent online every year by Irish customers and that figure is expected to rise significantly by 2020, according to a UPC report.

A cooling off period of 14 days now applies, up from seven days previously, during which time a customer can cancel their order and gain a refund without requiring a reason.

This new ruling applies from the moment that a customer receives the goods they have ordered, while traders must refund within 14 days of cancellation.

Similar rights will stand for digital purchases, including music, films and books, but the rights only apply until the moment a customer starts the downloading process.

Hidden fees and charges are also banned; meaning all parts of a purchase must be disclosed at the moment a customer makes an order.

Traders can also no longer charge card fees that are above the actual costs of processing a debit or credit card transaction.

Putting the needs of customers first

Customer care phone helplines are also banned from being premium rate numbers, meaning customers will no longer pay any more than the basic rate for telephone calls.

Pre-ticked boxes included in online purchases are now also banned – traders are no longer able to tick boxes offering additional services in advance.

Before the changes, customers had to forcibly choose to opt out of these extras despite never actually asking for them.

This improves the system as customers are now in complete control of what they are purchasing without any additional extras appearing on their bill.

The new consumer rights are designed to enhance the experience of purchasing online for the customer, making it less confusing and time-consuming.

According to the European Consumer Organisation, the new law will “cure many consumer headaches” surrounding issues they experience when buying online.

Traders must now also provide clear information relating to any costs relating to returning unwanted goods.

Customers are liable for these costs if they are taking advantage of the cooling off period and are responsible for taking this into consideration at the time of purchase.

Essentially, the new rules mean there are no more cost traps on the internet where customers could be hit by excessive charges.