The European market is a multi-billion $ sector which you can not afford to ignore. If you are based within Europe, American or Canada you must be aware of legal restrictions and requirements or face a hefty fine which could close your business. Donít panic! I am going to make this so simple you canít go wrong.
The aim of this article is to guide you through very simple steps required to comply with European law when selling goods online.
The law concerning these matters is widely similar throughout Europe but advice given below relates specifically to English & Welsh law.
And if you think you donít need to comply because you are outside Europe and nobody enforces one countryís laws in another country, you are wrong! International co-operation has never been stronger and jurisdiction laws may allow English consumers to sue you in English courts Ė forcing you to incur considerable legal expenses defending a claim in a distant country.
Print this now and keep it by your to-do list so your next website update adapts key principles outlined.
Letís start with step one.
The aim of law is to protect consumers and retailers and bolster confidence in online transactions. Put simply law protects all, not just purchaser. The relevant body of law is found in one document, Consumer Protection (Distance Selling Regulations). These Regulations have been altered a little recently but this is not of great concern to this article.
Now we know where to find law, lets look at what it does in step two.
The law forces seller, before sum is debited from purchaser, to:-
provide purchaser with identity and address of supplier; and describe characteristics of goods to purchaser; and show price of goods including taxes to purchaser; and make shipping costs clear to purchaser; and remind purchaser that he or she has a right to cancel purchase.
Now this may seem quite a lot to take on board but chances are you already have most of it covered anyway. Nearly everyone provides first four details regardless of local legal requirements. Itís just good business practice.
It is last point, reminding purchaser that he or she has a right to cancel, which is so important. We will look at this in step three
However, purchaser can notify you that he or she wants to cancel purchase in a variety of ways Ė most likely being my email, telephone call or fax.
In general consumer must let you know they wish to cancel within seven working days. These seven working days start one day after day on which purchase was made. As long as purchaser contacts you within this period they are entitled to cancel their purchase.
Even if goods have arrived with purchaser right to cancel still exists. Now law is not as short-sighted as you may expect. There will clearly be cases where common sense dictates certain items can not be returned or certain orders cancelled. These exceptions to right to return/refund are discussed in step four.
The most likely exception to be of use to e-commerce sellers is for goods which are made to specification or are clearly personalised.
One of our businesses is selling silver jewellery and if a customer orders an item which is engraved with his or her name then it would be useless if returned as we could not sell it on.