Deficiencies in online stores selling clothing and footwear

As part of a joint enforcement campaign (sweep) conducted by the EU consumer protection authorities, Finland checked 12 major online stores selling clothing and footwear.  The Consumer Ombudsman investigated the information provided by traders about the products sold in their online stores, about consumer’s rights, and about the trader before the conclusion of a purchase transaction. The EU Directive on Consumer Rights, which came into force in summer 2014, contains provisions regarding this information. The objective of the enforcement campaign, conducted in late 2015, was to ensure that consumers are provided with the information that traders are required by law to disclose. The Finnish Consumer Ombudsman found deficiencies on ten websites, which have now, by and large, been corrected.

In Finland, the Consumer Ombudsman checked the websites of online stores selling clothing and footwear. The following traders were selected for inspection: (Zalando), (Anttila Oy), (H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB), (Ellos), (S-Verkkopalvelut Oy), (Stockmann Oyj Abp), (Kesko Oyj), (S-Verkkopalvelut Oy), (Stockmann Oyj Abp), (Footway Oy), (Sportamore AB (Publ) filial I Finland) and (BZT Fashion Ab).

In total, the EU Member States’ consumer authorities checked 743 websites selling consumer products. Irregularities regarding information provided to consumers were confirmed in 436 cases. Among these websites, there were traders ranging from big multinational players to smaller companies. To date, 353 of these traders have corrected their websites to meet the requirements of the consumer protection authorities.

The following EU-wide irregularities, regarding disclosure of information required by law before concluding an online transaction, were identified:

  • On 63% of the websites checked, information on the right of withdrawal from a transaction was missing or unclear. For example, websites did not contain a relevant withdrawal form, or they failed to mention the duration of the right of withdrawal (14 days).
  • On 34% of the websites, information about the trader was incomplete or unclear. For example, websites did not give the address or full name of the trader/company.
  • 21% of the websites failed to clearly and prominently display the price, or the contract terms, before the order confirmation stage.
  • Information on product or service characteristics was unclear on 18% of the websites.

This pattern of irregularities occurs across different sectors, multi-purpose or specialised retailers (products, services, digital content). National authorities will continue their investigations with respect to online stores whose websites do not yet provide information required by law.

Under the EU Commission coordination, the EU consumer protection authorities will continue to conduct regular enforcement campaigns (sweeps) to ensure compliance with consumer protection regulations. The latest sweep was the largest conducted so far. Previous sweeps have targeted websites selling flights, and online household appliance stores.

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