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The new guide: how to sell online

Consumer Directive 2011/83/EU, first proposed in 2011, came into effect from 13th June 2014. 

Consumers across the EU have the same rights

The guidelines intend to create greater transparency in online transactions, and to simplify processes on both sides. Pre-ticked boxes, such as for newsletter registration or promotional e-mails, have been banned, and consumers have greater rights should they want a refund.

Both domestic and cross-border transactions are covered by the new legislation, and as long as both a ‘consumer’ and ‘trader’ take part in the transaction all industries are affected.


Some key points

  • All information relevant to the product or service must be provided at or before the point of purchase, in a clear, comprehensive and concise way that’s relevant to the situation (e.g. on a website product page, by phone or in person).
  • Buttons for ordering online must make it clear that the customer has an obligation to pay once they’ve clicked on it. ‘Confirm’ or ‘order now’ are no longer compliant.
  • A confirmation of the transaction must be sent to the customer within a reasonable time period following the order.
  • All aftersales and helpline numbers provided by the company must be basic rate lines.

Member States had small sway over the regulation

Each EU Member State was given until 13th December 2013 to translate the directive in the few areas where they held some regional flexibility.

Northern Ireland’s Dublin Chamber of Commerce has already moved to issue the second edition of their guide to selling online. The straightforward advice encourages businesses to:

  • Lay out all terms and conditions in a user-friendly manner – not the complex small print favoured historically.
  • Publish a privacy statement in full.
  • Be aware of the new 30-day period for order completion in the EU.

These are simple tips that businesses should already be completely aware of – and implementing. Even so, companies concerned with customer retention and remaining in line with EU policies may benefit from refreshing their collective memory.

Rules that make good business sense

Much of the new legislation comes down to common sense in being honest and fair with the consumer.  Businesses shouldn’t feel that they’re left at a disadvantage by the new rules. In actuality, following this legislation closely will inspire greater trust and confidence in the company from the customer.

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