eCommerce Websites and The Consumer Rights Directive

The Consumer Rights Directive is an EU law that came into effect on 13 June 2014. The law applies to anyone selling goods, services, or digital products online via an e-commerce website and offline.

Setting up an e-commerce website to sell online is a bit more involved than a standard website.  It is essential that you comply with the law, otherwise you will find that the consumer is not bound by the contract or the order.

To comply with the Consumer Rights Directive, I use a checklist for all e-commerce websites. That way I can be sure that from the go live date your e-commerce site is compliant and operating within the law.   I don’t actually write any of the documentation, you will need a lawyer to do that for you, I just check that it is all there and ask you to provide it if necessary.

My checklist:

  • Display your full company details and all contact details on every page.
  • Add the clear and unambiguous information required about the full cost of the products or services, the delivery charges, and the delivery information.
  • Add the clear and unambiguous information required about any subscriptions or recurring payments.
  • Add any technical information required about digital download products.
  • Remove any mechanisms that automatically add pre-selected items to customers’ shopping carts.
  • Fix the language on your checkout buttons – it must be clear on what will happen, so they must display clear language e.g. ‘Pay Now’.
  • Add a consent mechanism for immediate digital downloads, that:
    • advises the customer of the withdrawal from return rights – they have up to 14 days to cancel as long as they do not download.  Once they download the item they will waive all rights to cancellation.
    • gains express consent for that withdrawal – they must be told about it clearly by you.
    • provides confirmation of the consent and acknowledgement on the order confirmation (receipt) – these details should be repeated on any confirmation emails.
  • Add your cancellation policy – statutory information.
  • Add your returns policy – statutory information.
  • Verify that your transaction confirmation qualifies as a ‘durable medium’ – an email confirmation qualifies as a durable medium.
  • Edit your order confirmation (receipt) to reflect the new information required by the Directive – you have to make sure pretty much everything above is included in your confirmation emails generated by your e-commerce website, plus company information and customer service contact information.
  • Replace premium rate phone numbers with basic rate phone numbers on the contact information for post-sales queries, customers must not pay more than basic rate.

Some payment processors will have additional compliance rules for your e-commerce website.  Giving them access to a test environment will enable them to confirm that your e-commerce website complies.  If it does not comply they will tell you what is required before you can go live.

UK Consumer Rights Bill

Another one to keep an eye on is the UK government’s own Consumer Rights Act which became law in October 2015.

You know, you can read all of this stuff over and over and still get caught out!  Buyer be vigilant is my message – here is my bad online buying experience »

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