Enactments of new consumer protection legislation in Turkey is a hot topic. In 2014, the new Consumer Protection Law was entered into force, followed by its secondary legislation. In May of this year, the long expected Law on Regulation of Electronic Commerce was implemented.
Businesses engaged in e-commerce, including online retailers, are now required to comply with several obligations stipulated in these new laws.
DUTY TO INFORM CONSUMERS
Online retailers must disclose certain information to consumers prior to entering into an e-commerce contract, namely:
- Identity and contact information of the seller
- Main characteristics and price of goods
- Payment and delivery information
- Technical steps for entering into an e-commerce contract
- Right of withdrawal
- Data privacy and dispute resolution methods.
Sellers must provide the following steps to consumers at the stage when orders are placed:
- An order confirmation page, that appears prior to payment and that includes contractual terms, including the total amount to be paid
- Technical tools to enable consumers to detect and correct data entry errors prior to placing the order
- Confirmation of receipt of the order without delay.
Sellers are obliged to deliver orders within the promised delivery term. This term may not, in any event, exceed thirty days. If the delivery is not possible, sellers must inform consumers within three days and return the payment together with all delivery expenses within fourteen days of notification. However, it should be noted that insufficient stock is not acceptable as an event that makes delivery impossible. Therefore, sellers should make sure that their online stores correctly reflect stock levels.
RIGHT OF WITHDRAWAL
Consumers have a right to withdraw their order within fourteen days from the delivery of the order without stating any reason at the expense of the seller. As mentioned, sellers must inform consumers of their withdrawal right when entering into an e-commerce transaction. Unless the consumers are duly informed, the withdrawal term will be extended by one year.
In circumstances where goods are defective, sellers are required to recognise the consumers’ elective rights, which are:
- Return of payment
- Reduction of the sale price
- Repair of the goods
- Product exchange.
Consumers may exercise these rights within two years of delivery.
LANGUAGE AND FORM REQUIREMENTS
Sellers should not include unfair terms in their consumer contracts as these terms are accepted as invalid and may not be enforced against consumers. Unfair terms are defined as contractual terms which have been unilaterally concluded without negotiating with the consumer, which cause an imbalance between the parties’ rights and obligations arising from the contract to the detriment of the consumer in violation of good faith.
DIRECT MARKETING MESSAGES
Sellers may only send commercial electronic communications by obtaining prior consent (opt-in) from consumers. Such consent can be obtained in writing or through electronic communications means. Additionally, consumers have a right to refuse commercial electronic communications (opt-out) without stating a cause; the seller must comply with such opt-outs within three business days from the receipt of the refusal.
DATA PROTECTION REQUIREMENTS
Sellers are responsible for storing any personal data collected from consumers. Such personal data cannot be transferred to third parties or used for other purposes without the approval of the consumer (data subject).
Information and documents with respect to e-commerce transactions and the fulfillment of seller’s obligations (such as information and delivery obligations) must be retained by the seller for three years. Additionally, records of commercial electronic communications must be retained for one year. The records retained by the seller must be provided to administrative authorities upon request.
In light of the above, the recent legislative enactments have brought many rights in favor of consumers which will build consumer trust. When evaluated together with Turkey’s young population and the increasing number of Internet users, these changes are expected to boost e-commerce and the participation of international companies in the Turkish market.