European Consumers to Get Rights Protection

09 October 2008

BRUSSELS: Consumers across Europe could receive a common set of rights when purchasing products online, as the European Commission aims to encourage internet shopping beyond national boundaries – something in which only one in five citizens has engaged thus far.

Under proposals put forward by European consumer affairs commissioner Meglena Kuneva, internet shoppers in the European Union's twenty-seven member states would all be allowed a "cooling off" period of 14 days after making a purchase.

The draft legislation also requires retailers to deliver products within 30 days, and provides consumers with an option to claim a full refund if their goods are not received in seven days.

Retailers would also have to make all product information and the terms and conditions of sale available prior to purchase, and deliver the advertised product rather than an alternative similar  model.

Consumers' main concerns about shopping online on websites outside their own country are said to include language and tax issues, as well as worries about whether products would be delivered, and what to do should any problems occur.

Cécile Grégoire, senior adviser for payment systems at Eurocommerce, a retail trade association, says: "It is important for large firms, and even more for small firms, to be able to open new markets, and some type of harmonization is generally needed."

The Commission estimates that online retail will produce revenues of €128 billion ($175bn; £100bn) in the EU this year, rising by as much as 230% in the next five years.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff