We give you a guide to the EU Consumer Rights Directive 2014 and how it affects you: Simon Horton of e-commerce plugin supplier ShopIntegrator looks at how changes in EU consumer rights legislation affect your craft business. If you're selling direct to consumers, these changes apply to you.
The EU introduced new consumer rights legislation on 13th June, 2014 (http://ec.europa.eu/justice/consumer-marketing/rights-contracts/directive/index_en.htm), giving consumers a consistent level of protection when shopping within the EU, whether it's on the high street or online.
By knowing how to comply, you can avoid aspects of the legislation that would otherwise allow customers to legitimately return items up to a year after they were bought, or receive a refund for digital content (e.g. patterns or videos) they've already downloaded.
Increased order cancellation period
Your customers now have 14 days from the date of receiving the items to change their mind and cancel an order, for any reason. Previously this was seven days. Buyers are entitled to receive a refund, including the cost of standard delivery.
Make it clear on your website that shoppers have 14 days to cancel their order. This way they won't be eligible for the one-year cancellation period. Make it mandatory for customers to accept your T&Cs at the checkout before they're allowed to purchase.
You also need to provide a standard cancellation form as a downloadable pdf or as a web form. It needs to be simple, capturing only the essential information for processing the return. You need to issue refunds within 14 days from the date of cancellation. You can choose to wait until the items are returned, unless the consumer provides proof of posting. If so they're entitled to the refund ahead of the items being received.
Commitment to pay
The legislation sets out to protect customers from entering into an order where it isn't completely clear they're committing to pay for something.
Use plain English on the store checkout payment button such as 'Pay for Order', 'Secure Payment' or 'Pay Now' instead of fuzzier terms such as 'Buy Now' or 'Place Order'.
Complete cost breakdown
The buyer doesn't have to pay additional fees charged to fulfil an order if these aren't declared when the order is placed. This includes shipping costs, card surcharges and taxes. Declaring these extras in your T&Cs isn't sufficient; they have to be shown as part of the calculated order cost.
You need to give the shopper an order receipt detailing everything they agreed to pay for, either as an email or by post.
Signing up to other services and charges
You may no longer pre-tick opt-in boxes which sign up the shopper to other services such as newsletters or add optional extras. Instead the customer has to explicitly choose to opt-in. The legislation protects customers from forgetting to opt-out of something they hadn't noticed.
Cancelling digital download orders
If you sell intellectual property as digital downloads, for example craft patterns, designs or video guides, then you need a delivery process that's compliant. If not, buyers are within their rights to request a refund, even if they've already downloaded your design.
To make your digital download process compliant:
Prior to the order being made, list all system requirements and additional third-party software required to use your downloaded content
Inform customers they have 14 days to cancel their order and receive a refund only if they don't start to download the purchased content. Otherwise they waive their right to a refund
Ensure it's clear that they're clicking the button which initiates the download and takes them past the point of no return.
Excessive card surcharges
It's fine to pass on card payment surcharges to customers for covering the cost of card processing transaction fees, providing the cost is clearly visible when placing the order. What's no longer acceptable is charging a surcharge fee that's more than the cost incurred by you.
Helen Free runs an online craft business selling her own creative crochet design pattern downloads through her Rainbow Valley Crotchet website (www.enfys.me.uk). As a small retailer, Helen was concerned that the new EU regulations could have a big impact on her business.
"The new EU rules stated that a customer has to give 'explicit acknowledgement' of the fact that they're waiving their 14 day cancellation rights when purchasing an instant download. This had to be given before paying for the download. To me, the easiest way to obtain this was a tick box in the checkout. However, I was using a US-based e-commerce site which doesn't have to comply with EU regulations and, despite requests from numerous EU sellers, the supplier refused to add the tick box. Not having the box isn't illegal, providing all other regulations are adhered to, but it created a loophole for unscrupulous buyers to obtain the whole inventory of my patterns free of charge, just by saying they had changed their mind and wanted their money back."
Helen went in search of a new e-commerce provider who would allow her to comply with the EU regulations. "ShopIntegrator was one of the UK-based companies I approached and it was very quick to investigate and change its checkout process to comply with the new regulations."
The software now makes it mandatory for customers to confirm they're waiving their rights to the 14-day cancellation period once the download is initiated. In addition, the shopper has to click an explicit download button to initiate the delivery process so there is no doubt that they're accessing the purchased content. Helen is even able to see the number of times a customer has downloaded each design pattern, allowing her to issue or decline refunds where appropriate, all fully compliant with the 2014 EU directive.
Simon Horton is founder of ShopIntegrator, the e-commerce plugin that turns existing websites into full-blown web stores without coding, www.shopintegrator.com.