How will the new Consumer Rights Directive affect retailers?

This much discussed directive will have a big impact on retailers, particularly when shopping online. The aim is to strengthen consumers’ rights in all 27 EU countries, and it sets out a single set of core rules for sales made via the phone, mail order or internet, thus aiming to create a level playing field. The changes are many and include increasing consumer rights in relation to returning goods.

Stipulations retailers need be aware of include: the requirements to provide more detailed pre-contractual information to consumers in relation to sales contracts for distance sales, the cooling-off period for distance sales – consumers now have 14 days in which to change their minds and return goods for any reason; the banning of pre-ticked boxes on websites so consumers cannot be required to un-tick boxes to avoid extra services when shopping online, and increased price transparency, with the total price of goods or services to be disclosed in advance.

Andrew Shufflebotham, head of retail and consumer sector at law firm Addleshaw Goddard LLP, says that although the legislation doesn’t come into effect until 2014, retailers “should consider undertaking an audit of their website design, terms and conditions and sales processes as soon as possible to ensure they have time to put these into place”.

He points out retailers will have shorter time periods for refunding consumers, and, if necessary, might need to speed up their systems.