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New directive helps consumers

Cancellation rights could be up to a year

THE new Consumer Rights Directive could see cancellation rights of up to a year if online retailers don’t comply with the rules.

The directive gives UK and European consumers wider rights as well as seeking to make some aspects of the old Distance Selling Directive a little clearer.
In the week the BIS consultation on the implementation of the new directive is published, Vanessa Barnett, technology and medial partner at Charles Russell LLP, explained the CRD puts in place rules about:
*Information to be given before a consumer buys goods or services, regardless of whether bought online, in a store or elsewhere
*Cancellation rights and responsibilities where a consumer buys goods or services away from a store, including online
*Delivery times for goods
*Refund times for cancelled orders
*Maximum costs for customer helplines
*Ability to upsell extras as part of a transaction
*Fee surcharges such as credit card surcharges
Victoria added: “The CRD also imposes some quite firm rules which impact the way e-commerce systems are designed and presented to consumers.
“For example, in the words of the CRD, ‘If placing an order entails activating a button or a similar function, the button or similar function shall be labeled in an easily-legible manner only with the words ‘order with obligation to pay’ or a corresponding unambiguous formulation indicating that placing the order entails an obligation to pay the trader’.
“This is likely to be one of the areas where the design team and the compliance team disagree as to what a corresponding unambiguous formulation might be!
“The bite for non-compliance is also harsher than under current Distance Selling Regulations - if pre-contractual information is not provided, for example, a cancellation right could be up to a year from purchase.
“It has taken retailers in Europe several years to get to grips with the existence of Distance Selling Regulations and now the sands are shifting again.
“In the long term, it will pay to think about the CRD well in advance of the deadline, both from a technology development and business process perspective, as well as considering whether or not to input into the current consultation."

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