New Consumer Protections an Opportunity For online and Distance Sales Companies – Phil Prendergast

Labour MEP Phil Prendergast is encouraging Irish companies to gear up for new opportunities in online and distance sales after new EU-wide rules for cross-border sales were approved in Brussels today.

The European Parliament voted in favour of a directive establishing new consumer rights particularly for online shopping and distance selling*.

“The new rules will protect consumers from sharp practice and set minimum rights for returning goods.

“They could also boost internet and distance sales businesses because shoppers will have greater confidence in services based in the EU.

“Online sales and e-commerce in Europe were worth €163 billion in 2010 and the Centre for Retail Research predicts online sales in Europe will grow by 18.7% to €202.9 billion in 2011.

“Differing consumer laws in member states have deterred companies from expanding their markets. By harmonising these laws across the EU, businesses can be confident the rules that apply in their home market also apply everywhere else in the EU,” Ms Prendergast said.

Under the new rules:

Unjustified charges for using debit/credit cards are banned (this could affect online sales for airline and entertainment tickets)

Online opt-in boxes for buying goods or services cannot be pre-ticked

Consumers have 14 days to return goods for any reason and get a full refund, although the consumer must pay the cost of return

Consumers can also cancel an online order and get a full refund if goods are not delivered within 30 days

The seller will be responsible for any damage to goods during transit

Consumers’ consent for any payments arising from a contract must be sought in advance

Consumers cancelling a service only pay for the part of the service they have received

All contract terms should be expressed in clear language

All vendors – shops or online– must supply clear information on final price and complaint procedure before purchase

Custom-made items are excluded from these provisions

“These rules should also encourage more cross-border shopping and offer consumers better choice and value. Any increase in cross-border shopping of course, benefits the internal market project,” Ms Prendergast, who is a member of the Parliament’s Internal Market & Consumer Protection Committee, added.

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