05 July 2003

EU Regulation of Distance Selling

In order to encourage consumer confidence in buying goods and services over the Internet the EU has adopted Directive EC 97/7 on the protection of consumers in respect to distance contracts (the “Distance Selling Directive”). In the UK, the Distance Selling Directive has been implemented by The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 (“the Regulations”). The Distance Selling Directive provides an agreed minimum level of consumer protection throughout the EU, requiring businesses to provide certain information to consumers before and after ordering goods and services at a distance such as over the Internet or by phone providing consumers with rights of withdrawal and regulating certain marketing methods. There is evidence to suggest that many businesses still have a lot to do in order to comply with their obligations under the Distance Selling Directive. In the UK, the Office of Fair Trading conducted a random review of UK business websites and determined that 52% of those sites may well have been in breach of the UK’s Distance Selling Regulations for failing to give consumers easily accessible information on refund or exchange policies. Those UK businesses that fail to comply with the regulations can if necessary be subject to court injunctions.

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