The European Union (Consumer Information, Cancellation and Other Rights) Regulations 2013 came into operation on 13 June 2014. The Regulations apply to all contracts (subject to certain exclusions) concluded between a trader and a consumer from that date.
The Regulations give effect to Directive 2011/83/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on Consumer Rights, and replace the EC (Protection of Consumers in Respect of Contracts Made by Means of Distance Communication) Regulations, 2001 (the "Distance Selling Regulations") and the EC (Cancellation of Contracts Negotiated Away from Business Premises) Regulations 1989.
Key provisions for traders (particularly online traders) to note include the following:
- Enhanced Information Requirements - As is the case under the Distance Selling Regulations, a trader is obliged to provide certain information about the good/ service in advance of the contract being formed. Additional information, however, is now required. For example, a trader is also required to disclose the total cost of the relevant product or service, as well as any extra fees (freight, delivery costs etc.), and to provide clearer and more detailed information in relation to digital content (e.g. software downloads), including regarding compatibility with hardware and software;
- Cooling-off Period Extended - The cooling-off period during which a consumer may withdraw from a distance or off-premises contract has been extended from 7 calendar days (under the Distance Selling Regulations) to 14 days. The cooling-off period will be further extended in certain circumstances (for example, if the trader hasn’t clearly informed the consumer of the withdrawal right);
- Enhanced Refund Rights - A trader is obliged to refund a consumer for the product (including the costs of delivery) within 14 days of the consumer withdrawing from the contract. Unless the consumer has expressly agreed otherwise, the trader must refund the consumer using the same means of payment as the consumer used for the initial transaction;
- Surcharges for the Use of a Credit Card or ‘Hotline’ - Traders are prohibited from charging a consumer more for paying by any particular means of payment (such as a credit card) than the actual cost to the trader of offering the particular means of payment for that transaction. A trader that operates a telephone ‘hotline’ allowing the consumer to contact the trader in relation to the contract will be prohibited from charging more than the basic telephone rate for calls made to the hotline; and
- ‘Pre-ticked’ Options - Traders are prohibited from ‘pre-selecting’ (e.g. on a website payment page) optional extras or add-ons to the main goods/services provided under the contract, for which there is a charge. Consumers must actively select such options if they are to be bound by them.
It is also worth noting, in respect of distance contracts concluded by electronic means (e.g. over the internet), that a consumer must explicitly confirm that he or she understands that a charge applies to a service, before the consumer may become liable for that charge.
Traders who deal with consumers, particularly in the context of online sales, are advised to review their terms and conditions of sale, and their website payment pages, to ensure compliance with the new rules.