On 31 January 2020, the European Commission published the results of an EU-wide screening of nearly 500 e-shops selling clothing and footwear, furniture and household items, and electric appliances. These sweeps are carried out annually by the network of Consumer Protection Cooperation Authorities.
The findings reveal that two-thirds of the screened websites do not comply with EU consumer rights: one fifth of the flagged websites did not adhere to the Geo-blocking Regulation and web shops were also found not compliant with other EU consumer rights, primarily where it regards information obligations.
The European Commission mentioned that, because many irregularities were found from the scanned websites, further investigation is needed. For that reason, national Consumer Protection Authorities will carry out an in-depth investigation in order to monitor traders’ compliance with EU consumer rights and if necessary, initiate national enforcement procedures. Moreover, Commission and Consumer Protection Authorities are pushing traders to bring information policy in line with EU law.
Below we briefly describe the key results and focus areas that have emerged from the EC findings:
1. How to withdraw
Consumers must be informed in a clear and comprehensible manner the way in which to withdraw from a contract. Consumers have the right to withdraw within 14 days of receiving the good without the need to give a justification, and this must be communicated;
2. Withdrawal period
Consumers must be informed about the time-limit to return the product within 14 days from the moment they have notified the trader of their intention to withdraw;
3. Full price
Consumers must be shown the full and complete price and must be provided information about delivery, postal or other possible additional charges;
4. Legal guarantee
Consumers must be informed of their statutory legal guarantee to have a good repaired, replaced or reimbursed in case it was defective at the time of delivery.
5. Online Dispute Resolution
Traders must include an easily accessible link to the Online Dispute Resolution platform in order to inform consumers of their possibilities in case of a dispute.
6. Geo-blocking Regulation
The Geo-blocking Regulation is relevant for all traders offering their goods or services to EU end-users in the EU, regardless of whether the trader is established in the EU or in a third country. The aim of this regulation is to address unjustified geo-blocking. Consumers must be able to "shop like a local.” The Geo-blocking Regulation prohibits direct and indirect discrimination based on customers' nationality, place of residence or place of establishment. The EC findings show that it can be challenging for web shops to comply with these new rules.
As announced by the European Commission, national Consumer Protection Authorities will carry out an in-depth investigation.