While shopping on the Internet is convenient and many e-shopping centres all over the world are only a mouse click away, the violation of consumer rights is, regrettably, quite common when it comes to Internet trade. The majority of complaints handled by the European Consumer Centre of Estonia involve purchases made on the Internet.
March has been declared the month of fighting Internet fraud. Once consumers become more aware of their rights, together with the increasing volume of E-trade, the Internet will also become a safer shopping place. Therefore, consumers can contribute largely to decreasing the number of negligent sellers. The European Consumer Centre of Estonia and the Consumer Protection Board will advise you on how this can be achieved.
Specific rules and regulations are applicable to Internet trade all over the European Union.
The regulations, applicable to consumer rights in the case of Internet trade, are somewhat different from the procedure imposed on purchases made from regular stores. Minimum uniform requirements have been established for traders and distance contracts apply all over the European Union as well as in Norway and Iceland. It is beneficial and reassuring for a consumer to know that he/she can buy items from the Internet within the EU without fear of additional customs duties or value added tax charges. Also, information to be provided to a consumer before making a purchase and the fact that consumers are entitled to withdraw from the contract without penalty and without giving any reason within a minimum of seven days and receive a full refund have been established with an appropriate Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council. In some countries – such as Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Germany, the period of waiver, provided by law, is 14 days or longer.
More information on the regulation of consumer rights in Estonia, applicable to purchases made from Internet: read more!
This makes the Internet, with its choice and reasonable prices, a convenient and easily available purchase channel for all consumers, opening the European Union internal market in the process. The legal right applicable in the European Union – the option to return goods, ordered from the Internet, to a trader over a certain period of time – helps consumers in situations where the choice, made over the computer, turns out to be a disappointment as the consumer did not have the opportunity to become familiar with the product as thoroughly as he/she could have done in a regular store.
What are the main problems faced on the Internet with traders?
While consumer rights are clearly provided for in legislation, the main problems faced by consumers buying items on the Internet involve situations in which a trader does not meet his/her obligations and consumers are ‘left sitting’.
In the recent past, both the Consumer Protection Board and the European Consumer Centre of Estonia have had to settle a number of problems in which a trader has treated a consumer unfairly on the Internet, neither sending the goods nor giving a refund. The European Consumer Centre of Estonia, for example, has had to handle a number of complaints against www.dvdmedia.ee, an Estonian Internet department store, over the past year, which accepted money from consumers of other countries, while neither shipping the promised goods nor responding to the complaints of consumers.
Therefore, besides being aware of one’s rights, as provided by law, consumers must be very careful when choosing a trader in order to obtain as much information on the trader as possible before closing the deal.
Is buying items on the Internet always safe? What can consumers do BEFORE making a purchase to avoid later disappointment?