The European Parliament has given its backing to a number of proposed changes to EU law regarding the sale and return of goods online, designed to encourage greater online spending across the region.
The changes are intended to give consumers more confidence when buying online and from other EU member states by creating clear and simple stipulations to which sellers must adhere.
These include making the identity and address of the seller clear, and presenting the complete price a buyer will pay including any additional charges, before purchases are completed.
Firms must also ensure that items are delivered within 30 days, or customers have the right to cancel the purchase, while traders are responsible for any damage or loss during delivery.
Finally, sellers must agree to a 14-day period during which any goods bought online can be returned for any reason. The return of goods worth €40 or more must be paid for by traders, although digital goods such as music, films and software will be exempt.
The MEPs have given their initial backing to the changes, but postponed voting on their final position to try to reach an agreement with the European Council on a number of specific points.
The move will not be welcomed by all in the industry, however. The Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) has already written to the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee outlining its objections.
IMRG chief executive James Roper said in the letter that Article 17, which gives consumers the right to return any goods, and to have the return shipping for goods worth €40 or more paid for by the merchant, will hurt small businesses.
"We believe this will have serious consequences for businesses, as it will encourage some consumers to order without intending to purchase and place an overwhelming financial burden on SMEs selling online," he said.
Roper also argued that Article 22a, which forces all businesses to make goods available to purchase for consumers in any member state, is too onerous.
"We believe that retailers should not be forced into trading into all member states, but must remain free to decide which markets are appropriate for their business model," he said.
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