The subject of consumer rights in the EU will see a much needed boost this coming Friday, June 13th 2014, when the directive on consumer rights comes to full effect.
The newly formed directive, while supporting EU consumers in general, will focus primarily on online consumers. Brick and mortar shoppers will not be covered, but the directive will focus also on one-on-one house call sales.
Consumer expenditure accounts for 56% of the EU’s Gross domestic product (GDP). This figure shows the enormous potential for EU consumers to increase economic growth. 2013 saw an average of €352 billion spent via Ecommerce, that number is expected to reach €578 billion by 2018. However, with those impressive numbers and projections, currently only 11% of EU consumers shop across borders and only 25% of merchants sell across borders.
Research provided by the head of the European Multi-Channel and Online Trade Association Walter Devenuto helps give a better understanding on Ecommerce consumer and retailer habits in the EU. Ranking at the top of the list for consumers were returns policies and the risk of not receiving a shipped item. Retailers are also somewhat left in the dark with differing consumer laws across jurisdictions in the EU as the primary reason for not providing cross border services.
Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission and the EU’s Justice Commissioner aims to address these concerns. Reding warns that even with the growing strength of consumer rights throughout the EU, it will make very little difference if consumers and retailers are not made aware of these rights. In Cyprus for example, only 9% stated they are aware of their rights as online consumers, with 44% believing their rights are limited, stating they don’t have the right to return goods four days after purchase.
“These rights are only useful if people – both consumers and businesses – are aware of them. This is why we have decided to launch the Consumer Rights campaign,” Reding stated on a month long campaign currently being held in Cyprus on consumer rights awareness.
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The newly formed directive will standardize the now contradicting consumer protection laws spread throughout the EU, which until now has caused for unnecessary costs to online sellers and lowered consumer confidence in general. The directive will primarily focus on the consumer’s right of withdrawal, extending return times from 7 to 14 days after receipt, with full reimbursements including shipping and delivery costs.
“If the seller wants you to pay the cost of the return, they should make this clear before you purchased the item – otherwise you don’t need to pay. For bulky items that normally cannot be sent by post, they should give you an estimation of the cost of return in advance,” mentioned Consumer Commissioner Neven Mimica.
Another initiative the directive plans on instilling is the matter of pre-ticked boxes to prevent any wrongful charges. The reimbursement process will also be simplified with the use of a ‘model withdrawal form.’
“Consumers can be more confident when making purchases, including online purchases, anywhere in the EU,” Reding concluded.