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Date:13/10/11

EU confirms new online selling regulations

Business leaders have been urged to get ready for changes to online shopping regulations. These will come into force over the next two years, strengthening the rights of online shoppers.

The EU Council of Ministers has – as was widely expected – approved the Consumers’ Rights Directive (CRD), which will harmonise online selling laws across Europe.

The UK government now has two years to enshrine the changes into UK law. The CRD includes 12 key principles governing what rights should be given to consumers.

“The new rules will significantly strengthen consumer protection across the EU and guarantee equal protection for consumers wherever and however they shop, online or in the high street,” said Meglena Kuneva, European consumer commissioner.

The new rules will also make life easier for businesses that sell goods across the EU, ensuring they have a common set of rules governing consumer rights, added Kuneva.

The new regulations include the enforcement of a 14-day cooling off period, allowing buyers to change their mind about purchases for seven days longer than current EU rules prescribe.

They will also limit surcharges for credit card payments and telephone hotlines, ensuring vendors cannot charge more than the costs incurred by the traders. The CRD has been widely welcomed for extending consumer rights. However, some are concerned that the proposals do not go far enough.

“We’d now like to see an EU-wide dispute resolution service put in place to protect individuals making cross-border purchases, as well as a mechanism to enable collective redress,” said Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which? European regulators are keen to foster online sales, which account for an ever larger proportion of overall sales.

According to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, which tracks online sales each month, UK shoppers spent £5.2bn online in August. Elsewhere, analyst group Forrester Research estimates that nearly three-quarters of UK shoppers made purchases over the internet in 2010.



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