Digital Doughnut Contributor
Digital Doughnut Contributor 20 February 2014

5 things businesses need to know: The new EU Directive on consumer rights

The European Union has passed a new directive on consumer rights that will have a major impact on most, if not all,

The European Union has passed a new directive on consumer rights that will have a major impact on most, if not all, ecommerce businesses.


The main elements of this new legislation are designed to protect consumers and also provide added competition between enterprises. The directive is basically designed to align rights across the 27 EU member states, while providing more clarity on the way consumer rights are defined.


Although there hasn’t been much in the way of coverage of this directive to date don’t be fooled – it will affect businesses. Here are five key points you should know about the change in legislation:


1. An extension to the cooling off window

The first change of note in the UK that the directive dictates is the ‘cooling off window’ (the time in which the consumer can cancel their order), is to be increased from the current seven working days to 14 calendar days, thus bringing it in line with many other members of the EU including Germany who already provide this for consumers. The directive also states that a consumer can cancel the order and return the goods for any reason.


2. Changes to refund process

Consumers will have 14 calendar days following the purchase date in which they are eligible for a refund for returned goods.


Potentially the most controversial part of the directive is that a refund for the standard delivery option must also be included when paid. That being said one saving grace is that businesses do not have to refund the delivery cost until they have received the goods back from the consumer.


The changes to refunds incorporate more detail including how to handle returns that are damaged due to unreasonable care.


3. An end to pre-ticked opt-in boxes

Although having pre-ticked opt-in boxes has been a frowned-upon practice for quite a while now, it still happens. The new directive will put an end to this. The legislation defines that it will no longer be acceptable for websites to contain pre-ticked boxes that cross sell of offer ‘extras’ during the sales process.


4. No more ‘Buy Now’ buttons

Confirm order buttons at the end of a checkout process will need a radical change according to the directive’s documentation. Currently the usual best practice is to have a button stating ‘Confirm Order’ or ‘Buy Now’. Under the new legislation this will no longer be sufficient.


These buttons will need to provide context and make it clear that a contractual agreement is being entered into. The regulation itself highlights a suggestion for the content of the buttons as “Order with obligation to pay”.


As an experienced conversion optimisation strategist this is the change that I’m looking forward to the least. Getting users to commit to purchasing online has enough challenges as it is and adding in this extra dimension is only going to make the process appear more committal, which could confuse consumers.


The EU is attempting to safeguard consumers from buying or entering into a contract that they didn’t want in the first place with this change – which I can sympathise with. However this change will mean companies will have to need think hard about what copy and context they want the content to portray while managing anxieties and additional questions that this could bring about.


5. When it will come into effect

June 13 this year is the date you need to circle on your calendar. The directive was actually passed in December 2012 but the changes mooted in the document will not become law until this summer. There are a lot of changes in this directive and it is not realistic to highlight everything here but if you want to find out more about the new legislation see here


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