Get 'switched on' to your rights, urges consumer advice body UK ECC in National Consumer Week
Consumer advice organisation the UK European Consumer Centre is advising UK consumers to be 'switched on' to their rights when shopping for electrical goods online within Europe.
As National Consumer Week gets under way in the UK (28 November to 2 December), the UK ECC says that its research shows that electrical goods such as audio-visual, photographic and information-processing equipment bought in Europe continue to cause problems for UK consumers: there were more than 200 complaints and enquiries in 2015 alone.
Electrical goods such as mobile phones, computers, cameras and TVs are some of the most popular goods bought online within Europe, according to Vera Journova, the European Commission's Commissioner for Consumers. She said that competitive cross-border offers are expected to increase steadily in the digital single market.
The UK ECC advises UK consumers buying electrical goods online in Europe that there are three key areas of consumer law which they should know about:
- Pre-contract information
All online order buttons must now be labelled with 'obligation to pay' or similar unambiguous words. Consumers should no longer be caught by any extra payments, as pre-ticked boxes for payments such as insurance or gift-wrapping are illegal. Consumers must also be given details of cancellation rights, return costs, complaints procedures and redress.
If you are asked to acknowledge that you have read through and understood the trader's terms and conditions - normally by the ticking of a box - don't just tick the box and move on! Make sure you read through them and if there is something you're not happy with or do not understand, seek further advice or clarification.
- Your rights when you buy
Consumers have a 14 calendar day cooling-off period, during which a contract can be cancelled for any reason, including a change of mind. Unless otherwise stated in the terms and conditions, consumers have to pay the return postage costs. The trader must then provide a refund within 14 days. Upon cancellation, any ancillary contracts such as warranties or finance are automatically cancelled too. This right is enshrined under the Consumer Rights Directive, which harmonised key consumer rights across the EU for all types of 'distance contracts' purchases including online, since June 2014.
This saw one of the biggest changes in consumer law for some years, reducing several pieces of legislation into one and making consumer rights clearer and easier to understand. For the first time, it gave better protection when shopping online.
- If the product goes wrong
When consumers buy goods they have entered into a contract with the seller. The EU Consumer Sales Directive protects consumers when buying goods. These goods must be as described, of satisfactory quality, fit for the purpose made known, and free from defects.
Under the Consumer Sales Directive, if the goods are faulty or do not conform to contract, consumers may be entitled to a repair or replacement and in some circumstances a full or partial refund. Any non-conformity is presumed to have existed at the time of purchase unless proven otherwise by the trader. After the first six months, the consumer must prove the goods were faulty.
If the goods are second-hand, the purchaser must take into account the age, condition and price paid. Consumers get the same rights when buying second-hand goods unless a fault is related to reasonable wear and tear or they are made aware of any faults before purchase.
Andy Allen, UK ECC service director, said: “Arguably online shopping has become the norm for many people. As this trend to less personal shopping has grown, it has led to more money being spent online. The ECC-Net’s 10th anniversary report, in 2015, showed that one in six businesses now sells online and that e-commerce accounts for 7% of retail turnover in the EU as a whole."
And he had these further words of advice for consumers shopping online: "It is always important to know who you are dealing with. When you are using a trader's website, try looking for their address before completing your order - it may not be in the 'contact us' page, but possibly in their 'terms and conditions'. If the address is difficult to find, ask yourself why? What is the trader trying to hide?"
If you are a UK consumer and find yourself in dispute with an EU trader, then please contact the UK European Consumer Centre for advice on 01268 88660 - weekdays between 9am and 5pm.
Notes to Editors
- National Consumer Week (NCW) is an annual consumer education campaign run by the Consumer Protection Partnership. NCW 2016 will be from 28 November to 2 December. Its subject will be electrical goods and will have the campaign slogan 'Switched On'.
For further information, please contact UK European Consumer Centre’s press office on 01268 582206.
The UK European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net). There are 30 centres in the EU, plus Iceland and Norway. The aim of the network is to provide advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK. The Network will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint.
UK ECC can provide advice in the following main areas: buying goods and services, online shopping, internet auctions, holidays, timeshare and holiday clubs, air travel.
UK ECC is co-funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the European Commission. The UK ECC service is delivered by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute http://www.tradingstandards.uk/
- Consumers can make contact with the UK European Consumer Centre via the website – www.ukecc.net – or by phone on 01268 886690 weekdays between 9am and 5pm.
- If in doubt before you buy, contact our sister organisation – the European Consumer Centre for Services – for pre-purchasing advice: www.ukecc-services.net