Selling online: consumer contracts

EU online selling laws to protect consumers

Consumers in the European Union (EU) benefit from an increasing range of laws and regulations concerning sales and services contracted face to face or remotely.

Selling goods to consumers

The EU has established a minimum level of consumer protection for the purchase of goods in the single market.

This stipulates that the supplier must sell goods:

  • that comply with their description
  • have the same quality and performance characteristics of samples or models
  • are fit for any purpose accepted by the supplier

The consumer has two years from the delivery date to seek redress for faults demonstrably present at the time of delivery, in goods which should have lasted for this length of time.

Consumer contracts

Consumer contract rules apply to most contracts made between supplier and purchaser. This includes sales where both parties are not physically present in the same place at the same time. This covers email and internet contracts, as well as contracts resulting from press advertisements, mail order catalogues, digital television or those made by telephone or fax.

The legislation gives the consumer a cooling-off period of 14 working days to cancel the contract. See consumer contracts.

Financial services

Retail financial services sold at a distance are regulated by the Distance Selling Directive for Financial Services.

'Financial services' are defined as banking, insurance, investment or payment services.

Consumer purchasers must receive information about the service. They have a cooling-off period of up to 30 days, depending upon the individual member state's laws, relating to that particular financial service.

The right of withdrawal does not extend to financial services which could involve speculation, such as foreign exchange, collective investment schemes, transferable securities, futures, options, and exchange and interest rate instruments.