Information Campaign Shopped Yourself Naked on the Internet? Starts Today
6th of March 2008
Due to the increasing number of related customer complaints, the European Consumer Centre of Estonia launches a national information campaign Shopped Yourself Naked on the Internet? today, within the framework of which campaign information is provided on safe Internet shopping practices. The campaign lasts until 23rd March and is also intended for celebrating the World Consumer Rights Day on 15th March.
Kristina Vaksmaa, Head of the European Consumer Centre of Estonia, confirms that the experience of the Consumer Protection Board and of the European Consumer Centre of Estonia operating under the Board and involved in resolution of consumer complaints associated with cross-border purchases shows that increasingly more people have been disappointed by transactions concluded over the Internet. “Since in the case of purchases made over the Internet, there is no personal contact between the purchaser and the trader, the latter’s style of communication, consumer-friendliness and readiness to comply with legislative requirements is much too often revealed only when problems and complaints arise,” Vaikmaa said. “The main problem encountered by consumers when purchasing goods over the Internet is that the trader does not deliver the ordered goods to the consumer and refuses to return the money paid. This problem concerns traders operating both in Estonia and other European Union member states that have failed to meet the demands of Estonian consumers.”
The European Consumer Centre of Estonia emphasises that for the consumer it is important to know and remember a requirement emanating from the Law of Obligations Act; according to this requirement, traders registered in Estonia cannot demand from consumers advance payments that exceed one-half of the value of the goods purchased. Such a rule provides the consumers with the possibility for spreading their risks if the trader should prove to be incapable of delivering the order or returning the money, or if the trader should simply vanish. Although the consumer may lose one-half of the money paid for the goods, losing of this half is still better than losing the entire cost of the goods. In addition to Estonia, such a requirement is in force in some other member states as well (the Netherlands, for example).
According to Kristina Vaksmaa, one of the possibilities for acquiring an overview of a web trader’s accessibility and readiness for communication is to send the trader an e-mail specifying the purchasing conditions before making the purchase. Useful information on warnings concerning specific web traders can also be sought before actual purchasing from Internet forums or through search engines. “It is also useful to know that if you purchase from another private person, for example, buy a pram, TV set, mobile phone or used vehicle belonging to another private person through an Internet auction, the consumer protection legislation does not cover such transactions between two private persons,” Vaksmaa added.
In addition to advice on how to protect yourself from careless traders, in the case of e-commerce, it is also important to know your legal rights as a consumer, since a separate regulation is in force regarding contracts concluded with the help of means of communication. The principal rule in the case of purchases made over the Internet in the entire European Union is the consumer’s right to withdraw from the transaction within at least seven days, in which case all of the money paid must be returned to the consumer. In some countries, such as Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Germany, etc. the law stipulates an even longer term for this – 14 days. However, if the consumer has not been notified of his or her right to withdraw from the transaction, the consumer is entitled to the right of returning the goods within three months.
Campaign-related information and advice to consumers can be found at the home page of the European Consumer Centre of Estonia www.consumer.ee. In addition to this, the information campaign includes outdoor advertising in four Estonian cities (Tallinn, Tartu, Narva, Pärnu), Internet advertising and subject-related media coverage.
The objective of the information campaign is to improve the awareness of the consumers and thereby prevent future disappointments and unsuccessful transactions over the Internet.
Directror of the European Consumer Centre of Estonia