What’s all this mean then? Something that consumers can approve of that the EU has achieved? These new regulations come into force on the 13th June 2014 and replace the distance selling regulations 2000 and ‘doorstep’ selling regulations 2008. The aim was to ensure that consumers would be confident in buying anywhere in Europe.
Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012;
Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013; and
Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading (Amendment) Regulations.
The implementation has a significant effect in modernising consumer law, much of which was written 20 -30 years ago, particularly in relation to digital content that of course was not previously covered. The new laws have introduced a new distinct category to deal specifically with digital content, which will sit along-side existing categories dealing with the provision of goods and services. Part of the Consumer Rights Directive has already been implemented by way of the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012, which came into force in April 2013. The Regulations mean traders can no longer charge consumers fees that exceed “the cost borne by the trader” for the use of a particular means of payment whether cheque, direct debit, debit or credit card, or other.
The information which a trader must give to a consumer before and after making a sale
This is the need to ensure the customer understands what goods and services are being provided and ensuring there are no hidden costs. If the paperwork does not comply with the new requirements the consumer may not have to pay. When retailers send you email confirmation of the purchase this must now include a full description of the goods and services purchased including their characteristics and the full price including tax and any additional charges or delivery prices.
How that information should be given
The purpose of the ‘durable medium’ requirement is to ensure that, should a dispute arise at some point after the contract has been concluded, both parties have a record about what was agreed. The burden of proof that the relevant information has been provided rests with the trader.
The right for consumers to change their minds when buying at a distance or off-premises
Consumers now have 14 days to return items because they change their mind. In addition, refunds on cancelled contracts can be delayed until goods are returned. However, if the company has not provided the right information to the consumer then the length of the cooling off period could be extended. Although there are some exemptions, such as bespoke items, downloads have now been added and is no longer exempt. So, if like me you purchase the wrong download by mistake you can now get your money back! If you have downloaded then you won’t get your money back which seems fair enough really!
Unless stated otherwise you will pay for the return postage for any change of mind purchase.
Delivery times and passing of risk
Unless agreed with the trader, goods should be delivered without undue delay and within 30 days. If a particular date or period for delivery has been agreed then delivery should be within that time.
A prohibition on any additional payments which appear as a default option
Traders will need the active consent of the consumer for all payments – e.g. pre-ticked boxes for additional payments, will no longer be permitted. Consumers will not be liable for costs which they have not been told, pre-contract, that they must bear. Even I’ve been caught out by a certain large on line retailer which doesn’t like paying taxes with this. I got my money back when I challenged them with unfair practice but now I have more Laws to throw at them if they do it after June 13th!
A prohibition on consumers having to pay more than the basic rate for post-contract customer helplines
Where traders offer telephone helplines for consumers to contact them about something they have bought, there should be a number available on which the consumer can call for this purpose at no more than the basic rate.
So all in all this is good news for the consumer. In particular, the much requested banning of high rate numbers for customer service and complaint lines, traders now have to supply basic rate numbers. It’s really good too to see downloadable digital content covered by these regulations too.
So, all good news for the consumer, more legislation to follow later in the year.
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