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EU boosts online consumer rights

brussels bureau

EU boosts online consumer rights


It’s a familiar story for many people. They make a purchase online, only to find out later that they have ended up with something they didn’t really want. From today, however, Europe-wide rules aim to make it easier for customers to get their money back. Rubber stamped by MEPs, the new directive creates stricter regulations for items bought over the internet.

EU Commissioner for Fundamental Rights Viviane Reding said: ‘‘It will end abuse, for example the extra charges on credit cards, boxes that are already pre-selected on websites, or when we have to purchase something extra when all we want to buy is a plane ticket and not a meal or insurance. Such unforced purchases, will not exist in the future.’‘

It’s hoped the stricter rules will also benefit cross border business, encouraging customers to buy goods on websites in other parts of the EU. Currently, that only represents seven percent of all internet sales in the bloc. Consumer rights bodies have welcomed the changes despite some reservations.

Gilles de Halleux, an EU Policy Adviser at Belgian consumer rights group Test Achats, said: ‘‘This directive is not revolutionary, but it places all of Europe’s different consumers on the same level, which is a positive thing. But we do have concerns over several points. States could prevent consumers from enjoying this protection, for example they could demand a 50 euro threshold. Member states could use this and say any purchases below this amount would not be subject to this protection.’‘

Euronews’ Christelle Pétrongari said: ‘‘The directive is intended to improve the rights of consumers in the 27 member states. But experts fear it will complicate the lives of buyers who are not too sure of their rights. We will find out in 2013 when the directive comes into force.’‘

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