Consumer Rights Directive 2014: Why It Could Be Good News for Ecommerce

Posted by James Dunford Wood 21 Jan 14

Screen_Shot_2014-01-20_at_16.26.53...but still a headache for some.

Many online traders may not be aware that a new EU Directive comes into force on June 13th 2014, which has implications for how ecommerce stores conduct business. It is a law which tips the balance of distance selling contracts further in the direction of the consumer, giving them increased rights and protections.

This post will give ecommerce stores some guidance as to what changes they need to make, and how it will affect their business. But I also want to look a bit deeper into why it should be good news for ecommerce businesses, and not just consumers.

Many people’s gut reaction when faced with new EU meddling, especially from a business perspective, is ‘Leave us alone!’ However, digging deeper into the new law, it’s clear that the reason for its introduction has more to do than simple strengthening of consumer rights - there has been much debate on how to strengthen cross-border trading, specifically trading online. Currently the biggest markets for ecommerce in Europe are the UK, Germany and France, but not surprisingly most of our e-trade is within our own borders. It’s part a trust issue - you would think more carefully, for example, before ordering something from some other countries with which you were not familiar with in Europe - and also a cost of delivery issue. And what happens if the product arrives damaged, or not how you imagined or what the imagery promised? Returning the package would carry no certainty that the money would be refunded.

The new directive makes it far simpler - at least in law - to understand what your rights are, which it harmonises across Europe. Yes, the consumer will still need to bear the cost of returning the goods - unless the retailer specifies otherwise - but the right of returning the goods is extended to 14 days, and the retailer needs to refund the full sale amount including the original shipping (at the standard rate).

But there are a number of technical changes - mostly doing with permissions, clear messaging etc, that etailers need to be aware of, and which will require some changes to sites and potentially site architecture before June 13th. And if they are not carried out, then the rights of the consumer to return the goods can be extended in some cases to up to 12 months - so retailers beware!


There are some exceptions and modifications to these new rules depending on what you are selling - for example electronic downloads have different provisions, as do DVDs, audio and video content that is delivered wrapped and may be considered to have been consumed if the wrapping has been removed.

  • Financial services and travel services also have different provisions.
  • Products will still need to be in a re-sellable condition, and retailers will be able to make partial refunds in some cases.

However, for the vast major of etailers who sell physical products not subject to instant consumption, these rules will apply.

Want an overview of what the directive means for you? Download our free fact sheet


While the directive itself (the full version of which you can find here) is a fairly lengthy document, we’ve summed up the main points that affect your business and the action you need to take in a super-useful downloadable free fact sheet.

Want to get hold of it? Simply fill in your details below!

Topics: Ecommerce marketing resources, Ecommerce news

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