In a recent move (which seems to have completely passed me by until now), all 27 EU countries agreed to adopt a new Consumer Rights Directive, which focuses in particular on strengthening consumer rights in online transactions.
This press release from Brussels sets out ten perceived benefits of the new Directive and, in conjunction with the well-publicised changes to the rules on the use of website cookies in the Privacy Directive, reinforces the EU’s determination to improve consumer rights online.
So what are the main changes in the Directive that website operators should be aware of? A few of the interesting ones are as follows:
1. The use of pre-ticked boxes on websites will be banned.
2. Excess surcharges for the use of credit cards and hotlines will be stopped.
Retailers will not be able to charge consumers more for paying by credit card (or other means of payment) than it costs the retailer to offer such means of payment in the first place, and hotlines will not be able to charge more than the basic telephone rate for telephone calls.
3. Elimination of so called “cost traps”.
The aim is to target get rid of hidden charges and costs on the Internet where consumers are tricked into paying for so called “free” services, such as horoscopes or recipes. Consumers will need to explicitly confirm that they understand they will need to pay to access the service.
4. Better information about digital content.
The Directive aims to improve the details retailers give about compatibility of digital content with hardware and software and any technical protection that applies to the content, such as limits on the right for consumers to make copies.
Although these changes will not catch the online Christmas rush this year - the Government having up to two years to implement the new Directive at national level - website operators might want to start considering now what the impact will be on the way they operate their websites.