Important changes to consumer law affecting e-commerce businesses which are part of widespread changes at European-level are due to take effect in June of this year. These changes will repeal and replace a wide range of existing consumer legislation.

Some of the key changes brought in by the Regulations include:

  • The consumer’s cooling-off period in respect of distance contracts has been extended from 7 working days to 14 calendar days.
  • When a consumer cancels a contract within the 14 calendar days, the business must process a refund inside 14 calendar days (this was previously 30 days).
  • If a consumer cancels a sales contract inside the cooling-off period and is required to return goods to the business, the consumer must have taken reasonable care of the goods and can be liable for any diminished value of the goods that results from handling of the goods beyond that which would be required to establish the functions and characteristics of the product. However, once this is the case, the business must accept the goods back.

for any diminished value of the goods that results from handling of the goods beyond that which would be required to establish the functions and characteristics of the product. However, once this is the case, the business must accept the goods back.

  • Businesses must inform consumers of the total cost of the product or service, including any additional fees, before the consumer places an order. This aims to eliminate hidden charges and to ensure that consumers are fully informed of the costs that they will incur.
  • The Regulations prohibit the obtaining of consumer consent to any additional payments by means of pre-ticked boxes on websites.  The consumer must opt-in to indicate consent to any additional payments.
  • Digital content has been specifically recognised for the first time and consumers can now cancel contracts for the purchase of digital content online up until the moment that the actual downloading process begins.

Businesses that engage in e-commerce should begin reviewing their practices and terms and conditions of sale now to ensure that they will be in a position to comply with the new regime once it takes effect in June.