EU Distance Selling Directive

I am about to launch a Web site enabling consumers to purchase goods over the Internet. What are the legal implications of the...

I am about to launch a Web site enabling consumers to purchase goods over the Internet. What are the legal implications of the Distance Selling Directive and what should be in place on the site before we go ahead? t is not finalised, but act now Peter Vass

Eversheds

There are a number of issues you need to be aware of before you embark on Internet trading. You should comply with the Data Protection Act and have a privacy statement on your site. In addition, you need to have terms and conditions governing the sale of the goods.

The Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) is currently considering its response to the EU Distance Selling Directive, which is intended to give significant new rights to consumers purchasing goods and services over the Web. As you are about to embark on Web trading, it would be wise to consider these issues now, as it could save you costly design changes to your site in the future.

The proposed legislation contains key basic rights for consumers who not only shop on the Internet but also use other channels such as mail order and telesales. Under the new regulations contracts will have to be formed with consumers containing certain information which has to be provided at the right time and in the right format. By adopting these business practices now your business will save time and money.

The new regulations contain proposals to allow consumers the automatic right to cancel their order for goods up to seven working days after the goods have been delivered - and to hold onto those goods as surety until all monies have been refunded.

However, this latter point is one of the regulations in the consultation document under consideration and it is likely to change. Before the contract is concluded, the consumer must receive in writing, or by e-mail, their right of cancellation. If this does not happen then the likelihood is that the supplier will be guilty of a criminal offence, punishable by a fine.

In addition to this, when the legislation comes into force, your company will be bound to provide the name and address of the supplier, the main characteristics of the goods, price, arrangements for payment, delivery and performance and the right of cancellation to the consumer.

The DTI has not indicated when these new regulations will come into force. However, there will be a transitional period and the department will publish guidance for businesses.

For further information contact Peter Vass or Andrew Harve on 0121-232 1690

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This was last published in July 2000

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