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Be prepared – the Consumer Rights Directive is here

The retail industry is having to keep up with a huge number of changes, many of which are legislative. One major new rule coming into force in June this year is the Consumer Rights Directive.... by Gavin Matthews, head of retail at Bond Dickinson.


Be prepared – the Consumer Rights Directive is here

The Directive will affect all retailersand will mean they will have to deal with changes to returns and refunds policies, changes to terms and conditions on their website and order pages, and changes to customer helpline numbers.

Bond Dickinson recently hosted a legal forum with one of our partners and, unsurprisingly, the Directive raised a lot of questions and concerns. The forum took in six key things retailers need to know:

New order cancellation period

Distance contracts can be cancelled within 14 calendars, increased from seven working days.

Changes to returns procedures

Consumers will be required to return items within 14 days of cancellation.

Retailers will have the right to withhold refunds until goods are returned or evidence of return is provided. They will also have the right to reduce the amount refunded for goods which show evidence of use beyond the handling necessary to establish the nature, characteristics and functioning of the goods.

Active consent will be required for additional charges

Pre-ticked boxes applying extra charges will no longer be permitted.

Post-purchase helplines must be capped at basic rate

It will be unlawful to charge more than the basic rate (mobile or geographic) for post-contract phone queries.

There must be explicit acknowledgement of obligation to pay

This will include the requirement for a button labelled 'pay now' or similar language.

Understanding local law

Retailers are bound by local laws if there are 'directing' their products at a particular country or state – 'direction' is determined by an overall assessment. For example, allowing delivery to a certain territory can constitute 'direction'.

The best way to deal with this change is clear: be prepared. Ensure your staff are fully trained so that they understand the new rules and can implement them. You should also review your existing terms & conditions to ensure they are in line with the new rules. The new Directive has a clear objective to make consumers better informed. The onus is on retailers to be fully informed of the impact on their businesses too. 

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