EU's online shoppers to get more rights with new laws
Published 12/06/2014 | 02:30
Consumers can no longer be charged exorbitant fees for buying things online with their debit or credit cards.
And they'll also get two weeks to change their mind and get a refund under major new consumer legislation coming into force across Europe tomorrow.
With the continuing surge in online shopping, the EU's long awaited Consumer Rights Directive will give shoppers hugely strengthened rights and protection against hidden fees, charges and pitfalls when they shop online.
Irish shoppers already spend €6bn a year online and that is expected to double to nearly €13bn by 2020, a report this month for UPC found.
But as of Friday, anyone making an online purchase will have better cancellation rights, including an extended "cooling-off" period of 14 days – up from seven at present – during which they can cancel their order and receive a refund without giving a reason.
They will have similar rights to withdraw from digital purchases such as music, films and books, although this will only extend to when they consent to the download process beginning.
The new directive also bans all hidden fees and charges with traders such as airlines obliged to disclose the total cost of a purchase, including any extra fees before the customer places their order.
Traders will also be banned from charging card fees that exceed the actual cost of processing a debit or credit card payment.
Meanwhile, companies operating a customer helpline will be banned from charging more than the basic telephone rate for calls.
There will also be a ban on pre-ticked boxes in online purchases, meaning that traders offering additional services will no longer be able to tick the boxes in advance – a system that currently catches many consumers out by forcing them to explicitly opt out of extras they never asked for.
Traders will also have to provide clear information about the cost of returning unwanted goods as customers are liable for these costs if they're availing of the cooling off period, but need to factor in this potential expense at the time of purchase.
The European Consumer Organisation said the new law "cures many everyday consumer headaches".