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Tough New Consumer Laws

publication date: Jun 28, 2014
author/source: Dean Dunham

Dean DunhamThanks to a new European Law known as The Consumer Rights Directive, our consumer rights have been considerably strengthened. Under the new rules consumers are given higher levels of protection when shopping online (from both UK and EU websites) and on the high street. It is also hoped that the new rules will go someway towards combating rogue traders.

The new rules are law now so before you spend one more penny online or in store here’s what you need to know:

What are the changes?

Right to return goods

  • When you buy something online, on your doorstep or anywhere apart from within a retailers shop premises the period of time that you have to return the goods with “no questions asked” has been increased from seven to 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day that you actually receive the goods.
  • Despite the new 14-day rule above, if the retailer fails to clearly tell you about your rights to return the good within 14 days, the return period extends to a year.
  • If you purchase goods online from a trader outside of the UK there is now a standard EU form to complete for your refund, hopefully making the process easier due to the uniformed approach.

Ebay/online auctions

  • If you buy from a professional seller via an online auction (such as on ebay) you now have the right to pull out after the auction ends, within 14 days.


  • Sellers must refund you within 14 days of cancellation, including standard delivery costs. However, they can postpone the payment until such time as they have received the goods back from you.

Hidden/additional charges

  • Cost traps on the internet are now prohibited. These means that sellers must clearly indicate what is included in the price that you are paying and you must be given the opportunity to confirm your agreement to this before pressing the "pay now" button.
  • If you are not clearly told about a charge you will not have to pay it. So, if the seller adds a delivery charge but does not tell you the seller will have to reimburse you.
  • Pre-ticked boxes are also now prohibited. This means that if you want to buy an additional service from the seller you have to "opt in" by ticking the box, not "opt out" by un-ticking.
  • Seller can no longer charge more for credit card payents that it cost them to provide such a payment option.

Customer care phone lines

  • Many of the big brands have operated premium rate numbers for their customer care hotlines. This is now banned and instead they must only charge basic rate for such calls.

Digital products

  • Anyone buying digital content will be able to get clearer information, including about details on which software and hardware the content works with, as well as information on copyright protections.
  • Consumers will be able to pull out of purchases of digital content up to the point where downloading or streaming of the content begins.

Are there any implications for businesses?

Common rules for businesses will make it easier for them to trade all over Europe. Businesses making sales by phone, mail or online, or away from their premises, will now have a single set of rules to follow. This creates a level-playing field and cuts cross-border transaction costs. As regards small businesses and craftsmen, there will be no right to pull out of a contract for urgent repairs and maintenance jobs. Member States can also exempt traders doing repairs or maintenance jobs in customers’ homes for less than EUR 200 from certain information requirements.

Are there any exceptions to the new rules?

The new rules do not apply to package travel contracts, construction contracts and most financial services.

Will retailers/online sellers comply with the tough new rules?

Many will, some blatantly will ignore them and others simply will not be aware of the changes. It is now down to you as consumers to complain when these rules are broken and people like me to expose and pull-up those that break or ignore the them.

 Are the new rules good for consumers?

There is no doubt about it, these new rules represent the biggest shake up in consumer laws in recent times. In my opinion the changes are all positive for consumers and on the basis that more and more of us are buying goods online from EU traders it provides a good platform for harmonising how traders across the borders operate.

For further information visit Dean’s legal and consumer website.