As companies across Ireland innovate to ensure they can continue to serve their customers during these exceptional times, there is an inherent risk that they may fall foul of legislation and codes that may not have applied to them until now.

 

Businesses are evolving as a high-street presence is no longer serving its purpose. Traders are exploring the opportunity of selling online for the first time. In this new world for so many, where sales transactions are controlled by the online purchaser and not the cashier at the counter, how does the ‘now online’ business owner protect themselves?

The Consumer Rights Directive (CRD) came into force in 2014 and provides consumers with increased protection when they enter into on-premises, off-premises and distance contracts with online traders based in Ireland and other EU countries.

Distance contracts include buying something online, over the phone, from a mail order catalogue or from a TV shopping channel. Businesses must comply with a range of provisions that were introduced. These include bans on hidden charges, as well as an extended right of withdrawal period. You will also be obliged to refund consumers more promptly.

The EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES (UNFAIR TERMS IN CONSUMER CONTRACTS) AMENDMENT REGULATIONS 2013 specify no less than 24 items of information that a seller will or may be obliged to provide to a consumer before that consumer can be bound by an online contract.
Some are obvious:

  • the identity of the trader, including the trader’s trading name
  • the total price of the goods or services, including taxes
 

But some are more complex and may require new processes and procedures:

  • the trader’s complaint handling policy
  • the possibility of having recourse to an out-of-court complaint and redress mechanism to which the trader is subject, and the methods for accessing it

When the consumer decides to cancel the online transaction, the trader must refund all payments, including any delivery charges, within 14 days of receipt of the cancellation notice. There is no linkage between the requirement to make the refund and the return of the goods.

A trader who completes an online sale must provide the consumer with a copy of the signed contract or confirmation of it on paper or if the consumer agrees, in another durable medium.


What are the sanctions and penalties if you are found to be in breach of consumer protection law?
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has a range of powers to help achieve compliance with consumer protection law. These are:

  • Prosecution
  • Prohibition orders
  • Compliance notices
  • Undertakings
  • Fixed payment notices
 

How can you ensure you are complying with consumer protection law?
Before a business does decide to move a service their customers enjoy onto a new platform, it is wise to seek legal guidance. An ARAG Commercial Legal Protection package provides just that with our Legal Advice Helpline included in all policies, so that if something does go wrong, you have the support you need, when you need it.

 

Disclaimer - all information in this article was correct at time of publishing.

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