Reminder: New Online Commerce Rules Coming to the EU

by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

On June 13, 2014, a series of new laws affecting businesses active in the online sale of goods and services (including content) to customers in the European Union will come into force. By that date, each EU member state must have enacted its own national legislation to implement the Directive on Consumer Rights (2011/83/EC), which was adopted by the European Commission in October 2011. For companies that have not yet brought the terms of their agreements that apply to customers in the EU into compliance, now is the time to do so.

Some of the key provisions of the Directive on Consumer Rights are the following:

  • Right to Return Goods. Under the directive, online consumers must have a minimum of 14 days from when they receive their purchases to return them for a full refund. Where a seller has not clearly informed the customer about the right to return, this period may extend to one year. In the case of online contracts for services, service providers may withhold a portion of the fees paid from the refund representing a pro-rated share of fees incurred during the 14-day period. Certain exceptions to the refund obligations will apply, such as when purchasing from online auctions (although professional sellers operating through these platforms still will be required to comply) or when purchasing digital content (in which case the right to a refund expires when the download actually has begun). By default, the retailer must bear all costs of the returns, although online retailers may pass this cost on to consumers if the latter are clearly informed of what the estimated costs of returns will be in advance of the purchase.
  • Prescribed Contracting Methods. The directive contains a number of new rules that prescribe how contracts can be formed online. Specific wording must be used at the final point of sale and the directive prohibits the use of pre-checked boxes when accepting terms of online purchases. Businesses will need to provide consumers with a model withdrawal form to use when cancelling contracts and post the form on their websites.
  • Disclosure Requirements. The directive specifies certain disclosures that retailers must make regarding their products and services. For instance, sellers of digital content must include hardware and software compatibility information and any technological protection measures (or DRM) that are included with the content.
  • Prohibition on Payment Surcharges. Under the directive, online retailers may no longer impose a surcharge for the use of a credit card or debit card (beyond the actual cost to the retailer to process these payments). Retailers also may not impose any fee for calling the retailer's listed telephone hotline, although the directive does not go so far as to require toll-free numbers for customer inquiries.

Penalties for failure to comply with the Directive on Consumer Rights will vary by member state, although the directive requires member states to impose "strict" penalties for non-compliance. These could include voiding of sales contracts and the imposition of injunction orders for first-time offenders, and repeat offenders may face severe regulatory fines for failure to adhere to the new requirements. Consumers also will have a private right of redress against online businesses that do not follow the new regulations. Member states have some ability to enact requirements that go beyond the rules laid down in the directive. The European Commission's press release on the directive contains additional information.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.