E.U. Warns web shoppers of illegal practices
Following a European Union study, revealing that more than half of all Web sites selling electronic goods may be breaking the law by concealing charges, misleading consumers or failing to provide an address to which products can be returned, Sam Jardine, e-commerce solicitor in the Retail Group at international law firm Eversheds comments:“The last few years have seen a phenomenal increase in the pace and scope of e-tailing (online retailing). Whilst lawmakers have tried to keep pace, the law in this area is still piecemeal; meaning larger players have generally attempted to keep up but many SMEs are playing catch-up.
“E-tailers need to be aware of the legislation governing their practices, especially the provisions (in the UK) of the Distance Selling Regulations, the E-Commerce Regulations, the Sale of Goods Act, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations, the Data Protection Act and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. Many of these stem from EU Directives, meaning the EU-wide position should be broadly similar. A recent 'web sweep' by the UK Office of Fair Trading highlighted deficiencies in many e-tailing practices.
“The standard terms of many e-tailers already include the right to cancel, in line with distance selling rules. However, many still impose other terms that are not compliant, in particular in relation to the return of goods.
Further areas where e-tailers often fall down are the provision to shoppers with certain information, including the identity, location, contact details, geographical addresses and clear pricing statements.
“In reality, the survey may well be a wake-up call for the sector as a whole; particularly if some of the larger e-tailers are found to be deficient. Many of the smaller e-tailers rely on larger brands to lead the way and assume they have got it right, even 'borrowing' terms and conditions from the bigger sites. That can all too often be a false assumption.”
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