Most online shops violate consumer rights

Most online shops violate consumer rights
© Belga

Out of 500 online retailers which were reviewed by the European Commission, two thirds do not comply with consumer rights: an unacceptable proportion, says European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders.

The Commission presented on Friday the results of a survey conducted by national authorities in charge of EU consumer protection on nearly 500 online shops (clothing, shoes, furniture, household items, electrical appliances).

The European right to return a product within 14 days boosted consumer confidence. Retailers owe a lot to that right, and should not hide it in the fine print. It is unacceptable that European consumers are not properly informed of their rights in two out of three online shops., said Reynders, who is the European Commission’s Head of consumer protection.

The European Directive on Consumer Rights guarantees that when making an online purchase, the consumer has the right to receive clear, accurate, and comprehensible information on delivery terms, withdrawal rights, and on the legal guarantee in case of product flaws.

But more than a quarter of the 500 examined websites did not provide information on this particular right, which allows the buyer to return the product without justification and to be reimbursed.

Almost half of the sites were not sufficiently clear on the return delay, which is 14 days after the date of the request for retraction.

On almost a fifth of the sites, the price initially presented was incomplete: it did not include delivery charges, postage, other potential costs or information.

Furthermore, over a third of the sites did not inform consumers of the legal guarantee of two years minimum to repair, replace or refund in case the goods are defective at the time of delivery (even if the fault appears later).

Nearly 45% of the sites did not provide a clear link to the platform for dispute resolution on their website, which EU legislation requires.

Finally, a fifth of the sites did not comply with the regulation on geo-blocking, which allows consumers to make purchases from websites which do not deliver in their country of residence, provided they can have their purchase delivered in a country served by the trader.

National authorities — the Economic Inspection for Belgium — must now conduct a thorough investigation on the identified irregularities. Retailers will then be invited to correct their websites, risking biding measures if they do not do so.

The Brussels Times

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