New regulations affecting online selling and other types of distance selling will be applied as of 13 June 2014. The changes apply to questions such as cancelling orders and the obligation of companies to give more information than before to consumers in advance of the finalisation of an agreement. To help the companies, the Consumer Ombudsman has drafted a set of rules for them to follow to make sure that they are operating in accordance with the law.
The Online Sales and Other Distance selling set of rules was prompted by a directive on consumer rights, which has led to changes in regulations on remote sales under the Consumer Protection Act. In addition to legislation, legal practice concerning distance selling as well as decisions of the Consumer Complaint Board were considered when the policy line was formulated. The Consumer Ombudsman has also heard the views of business organisations, the Consumer Complaint Board, and the Consumer Advisory Service.
As a result of the new regulations, there will be changes to the right to cancel orders, for example. For instance, if a consumer wants to cancel an order, he or she must separately notify the company of the intention. Simply returning the item or not picking it up is not sufficient. The company needs to provide consumers with a cancellation form, but the consumer can use some other written means of cancellation. The cancellation must be made within 14 days.
Another change is that the consumer must pay the return delivery costs of a cancelled order. However, a company can still offer the customer the option of free delivery if it wants to.
The new regulations require that companies give consumers more information than they previously had done before drawing up an agreement. For instance, a company must inform the consumer on the compatibility of digital content with different devices and software. In addition, there needs to be a mention about legally mandated liability for faults, which are in force regardless of whether or not the company has included a warranty for the product. The consumer also must be informed if the online store delivers goods only to certain countries.
Price information and surcharges must be told clearly
The company must clearly state the total price of an order, as well as all surcharges that are not included in the total price before an order is placed. The consumer must also be asked to give specific consent to costs that result from additional services, such as insurance, which are not included in the price of the product.
Problems have been inflicted on consumers resulting from online advertisements in which they had been enticed to order some product or service without being clearly told that the order incurs a surcharge. It has later come as a complete surprise to them that they had committed to an agreement that incurs a charge. The new regulations require that the company should notify the consumer in the order key, or in connection with it that payment is required for the order. If the company has not made sure that the consumer has accepted that the order incurs a fee, the agreement is not be binding on the consumer.