New consumer rights directive comes into force
The new EU Consumer Rights Directive, which has now entered into force, strengthens consumers' rights wherever and whenever they shop in Europe – online or on the high street.
Businesses will also benefit from these new rules which create a level-playing field, making it less costly for traders to offer their products and services to consumers across borders.
The new rules will for example ensure that EU-wide, consumers have 14 days to change their minds and pull out of any online purchase or off-premises purchase (when a seller visits the consumer's home) – up from the previous minimum 7 days.
The new rules also ban surcharges for the use of credit cards and hotlines, as well as pre-ticked boxes on websites for charging additional payments (for example when buying plane tickets online). To make sure these new rules are applied in a uniform manner across the EU, so that consumers benefit from them no matter in which Member State they are, the European Commission is also publishing a guidance document for national authorities, including an optional model for essential consumer information to be displayed on digital products.
"Today Europe is putting an end to consumer rip-offs online. As of today every consumer in the European Union can claim his or her rights under the Consumer Rights Directive meaning: no more pre-ticked boxes when you buy a plane ticket, no more extra charges for paying with your credit card online and no more traders telling you that you can't return a good you bought online," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner.
"A confident consumer is the best possible news for our single market. Putting consumers in the driving seat by boosting their confidence is the cheapest stimulus package that Europe can put in place. The European Commission will now rigorously be checking if Member States stick to what they have previously agreed by implementing the rules correctly and grating consumers the rights they deserve."
The new Consumer Rights Directive harmonises national consumer rules in several important areas, such as the information consumers need before they purchase goods and services, and their right to cancel online purchases. Increased harmonisation means that consumers can now rely on the same rights, no matter where they shop in the EU. It also means simpler, more predictable rules for traders, who will now have more incentives to expand their business across borders.
Under the new EU rules EU consumers can now rely on
- Enhanced price transparency;
- The end of unjustified surcharges for the use of credit cards and hotlines;
- A ban on pre-ticked boxes on the internet, as for example when they buy plane tickets;
- An extension of the period to change their minds from 7 days to a uniform 14 days across the EU;
- Stronger refund rights, within 14 days of the consumer's cancellation of a purchase;
- Rules banning online traps, like offers on the internet that advertise something as free when in reality it is not (for example horoscopes or recipes);
- Better protection in relation to digital content, especially regarding information on the software and hardware the products work with.