If you purchase items online then the EU’s new consumer rights law is great news, however if you own an online shop it’s possible that you’re now breaking the law without even knowing it…
So what’s changed?
Hidden costs are effectively illegal. The costs themselves are still allowed, but they must be visible and fully explained to users. eCommerce websites are not allowed to add unexpected charges at the last stage of the checkout process. Sometimes of course these charges may need to be added at a later stage, but it must be clear from the outset that this will be the case, even if a price has not yet been calculated.
Online retailers are not allowed to add things to a shopping basket that the user has not agreed to. They are also not allowed to include items or services that have to be opted-out of when purchasing.
Retailers are not allowed to add a last minute hidden ‘processing fees’, or allowed to automatically force users in to a subscription that they didn’t agree to.
Do you have an example?
A great example is RyanAir which, at the time of writing , is automatically trying to add travel insurance (at a cost of £13.99) to a flight I am purchasing. I have to manually select “Don’t insure me” as a country in order to stop this. Whether the way they are doing this is illegal or just immoral is up for debate, but it is these strategies that the new law is trying to prevent.
Are some online retailers still breaking the law?
In a word, yes. This law has not yet been well publicised, and of course it will take a while for web developers to catch up.
Essentially the new laws supersede the 1997 consumer rights law which is obviously outdated and until recently didn’t even mention online retail.
What happens to retailers breaking the law?
If they are not complying with these laws, and a user complains to their local Trading Standards office, the user may get their money back and keep their goods. In the event of digital goods or a service, the contract can be cancelled and the user has to make no more payments.
This is bad news for online retailers, good news for comnsumers.
Is this fair?
Absolutely, the law is here to protect consumers and not to penalise retailers. If a retailer is selling a legitimate product or service in a truly moral and transparent way, they have nothing to worry about.
Does it affect everyone?
Remember that this is an EU specific law, so consumers should be very careful when visiting websites from countries outside of Europe.
Is my online shop legal?
Tested on www.ryanair.com at 13:00 on 9th September 2014.