26. 6. 2019

What rights do consumers have when shopping online?

The EU Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Union (EU) are very active in the field of consumer rights protection. For example, in the recent ECJ judgment C-681/17  the court dealt with the question whether consumers can return a mattress bought online and from which the protective film has already been removed. In accordance with applicable law, consumers are entitled to receive a 14-day return period for online shopping. In this case, the ECJ emphasized that the purpose of the right of withdrawal is to protect the consumer in a special situation arising from distant sales, since in such cases the consumer can not specifically view the product before concluding a contract with a trader. It was, therefore, deemed that the sale of a mattress was not one of the exceptions to the right to withdraw from the contract.

The ECJ compared the mattress to ordinary clothing for which Directive 2011/83/EU explicitly provides the possibility of a refund after the clothing has been tested and stressed that the mattress should be refundable (and, consequently, other similar products), if the mattress concerned is suitable for re-use or re-sale, as is the case with clothing, footwear, fashion accessories, etc.

Consumer rights with online shopping are, therefore, constantly evolving. Recently, the EU has been discussing so-called geo-blocking in online stores. This is an unwarranted discrimination in online sales based on citizenship, place of residence or customer place of residence, which has been on the rise for many years, along with the growth of online shopping.

The result of these discussions and the state of play on the European market was the adoption of Regulation 2018/302  on addressing unjustified geo-blocking and other forms of discrimination based on customers' nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market and amending Regulations (the Regulation) on 3 December 2018. The Regulation is directly applicable and provides that a seller may not block or restrict consumer access to its online interface on grounds relating to the consumer’s nationality, place of residence or place of establishment or to redirect the consumer to a version of the web interface which differs from the web interface that the consumer initially wanted to visit.

The ban on redirecting consumers to regional versions of websites allows for greater consumer equity and is particularly welcome when prices of goods and products offered by a particular seller differ according to the country (online version) of the consumer. All consumers must receive the same offers as consumers who are in the country of the online seller. In addition to the ban on geo-blocking, the Regulation also prohibited the use of other general conditions for access to goods and services on grounds relating to the consumer’s nationality, place of residence or place of establishment.

However, it should be noted that the Regulation still does not provide that sellers must provide cross-border delivery. This remains at the discretion of the seller; that said, a seller must not prevent a consumer from another country from declaring that he/she will receive the goods in the country of the seller.

Author: Agnieszka Karpowicz, Lawyer
<< Back to list