The Consumer Rights Directive (CRD) comes into force in the UK in June 2014. The CRD aims to simplify consumer rights in certain important areas, mostly relating to buying and selling and will affect all retailers.
One of the changes applied by the CRD already came into force in April 2013, namely the prohibition of excessive fees when paying a seller (for example, large credit card fees), but the other changes which are due to come into force in June will affect the way retailers interact with their customers.
According to guidelines from the UK government, the main implications which should be taken into account by sellers concern ‘after buying’ policies. These include the change that if a product has been bought away from the place of business, for example online, then the buyer has an increased ‘cooling off period’ of 14 days. This means distance orders can be cancelled within 14 calendar days, an increase from the 7 working days currently allowed.
Customers will also be required to return cancelled items within 14 days of cancellation, and retailers will be entitled to withhold refunds until goods are returned. Retailers will also have the right to reduce the amount refunded if the returned product has suffered wear or use beyond that expected by transportation, or the handling necessary to establish the functioning and characteristics of the goods.
The Directive also prevents excessive phone charges being administered when consumers are trying to contact a seller. That means it will be unlawful to charge more than the basic rate for post-contract phone queries.
Additional payments without the express consent of the consumer are also prohibited, which will include tick boxes which need to be deselected in order to avoid payment.
Guidance on these regulations and the effects they will have on retailers are available from the UK government website.