As many online retailers are gearing up for the year’s busiest shopping days, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has commenced a campaign to make businesses who sell online aware of the protections that they must give consumers who are based in the EU. There are a set of consumer protection laws, known as the Consumer Rights Directive (CRD), which provide protections to consumers who buy goods or services online.
The CCPC’s ‘Selling Online’ campaign was informed by research commissioned to identify business’s awareness of the CRD and measure awareness of specific aspects of the law. The research found that the vast majority of companies are aware of, and adhere to the CRD’s requirements to refund customers who cancel their order for any reason within the legal timeframe. However, there are considerable variations in the timeframe’s businesses give consumers to cancel, return their purchase, and get a refund.
Key findings from the research include:
Most companies that sell online offer refunds for customers who change their minds, with 82% of them allowing at least 14 days, which is the statutory requirement.
Over a third (39%) calculate the 14 days from either when the order is placed or the goods have been dispatched. Consumers should have 14 days in which to cancel from when they receive the goods.
The CRD requires that customers be provided with 14 days to return their order. This starts from when a customer notifies the company that they are cancelling their order. However, 3 in 5 companies were found to start this 14 days from when the customer has received the goods.
65% of businesses accepted returns when the packaging had been opened. Under the law, consumers are entitled to open the packaging of most products.
25% alter their ‘change of mind policy’ when items are on sale. Consumer protection law applies irrespective of whether an item is discounted.
Áine Carroll, Director of Communications and Policy at the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, said: “As we approach the big shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday we know that this is a particularly busy time for retailers. However, it is important that businesses understand their obligations under consumer protection law and particularly, that they realise that these obligations do not change during sale times. Our campaign is intended to particularly help smaller businesses who may not be aware of the Consumer Rights Directive or those who may have just started selling online.
Overall, from our research we are happy to see that businesses reported that they were providing consumers with many of the protections required. Indeed, in some cases, businesses were going beyond the protections required under the law. Where we did see some confusion was the point at which particular statutory timeframes commence, for example, how long consumers have to return the goods back to the business. And so, to help businesses understand these obligations, we have developed a specific guide which provides an easy to follow overview of the different requirements under the CRD.
We know that businesses want to comply with the law, so in addition to our enforcement activity we want to provide support for businesses. This is the first of several business focussed campaigns we will be running to proactively help businesses understand their obligations under competition and consumer protection law. Our website ccpc.ie provides a range of supports for businesses.”
The CCPC’s Selling Online Guide is available here.