LONDON, 2015-12-10 — /EPR Retail News/ — The UK has the largest e-commerce market in Europe and the BRC represents a large number of small and large retailers who sell online, face-to-face and through a variety of channels both in the UK and throughout the EU and the wider world.
The BRC has long campaigned for the same consumer protection laws to apply throughout the EU for the sale of goods and digital content. Today that campaign has succeeded with the European Commission publication of proposals that recognise that it is the right way to expand choice for consumers throughout the EU and provide retailers with greater opportunities to sell throughout the EU and thereby contribute to jobs and growth in the UK. The BRC has worked closely with the Commission in the development of these proposals.
The European Commission proposals for a Directive on the legal guarantee for Online Sale of Goods (which has been issued together with a separate proposal on digital content) would introduce a single legal regime for the whole of the EU. This would include a two year guarantee period, a reversal of the burden of proof for two years and a choice of repair or replacement of a defective good for a consumer – with a price reduction or repayment if that is unsuccessful or cannot be carried out. This adds to the withdrawal and other rights already in force throughout the EU in the Consumer Rights Directive.
The Commission proposal is a good start but still needs to be refined further. It represents a good basis for debate in the European Parliament and the European Council where it can be thoroughly examined and, like all proposals can, where appropriate, be amended in the light of further consideration.
The proposal does present some challenges. For example, it only applies to online or distance sales. While UK retailers could if necessary cope with two different regimes for a time through aligning their terms and conditions, we agree with the Commission that it is important for consumers and businesses that the same rules apply to online and offline sales and note their intention to do this in a separate proposal. But even though the Commission is right to want to act quickly to push forward e-commerce in the EU, we would prefer to see online and offline in one single proposal or for the two proposals to come into effect at the same time and will seek amendments to achieve this.
The proposal also presents some particular challenges for the UK. While it increases some consumer rights such as extending the period during which a consumer does not have to prove that a good was defective at the time of purchase, it reduces others including the length of the legal guarantee period. Clearly any proposed reduction in consumer protection in the UK will be controversial. UK retailers would wish to emphasise that they have no problems with the current UK regime which was recently introduced in the Consumer Rights Act.
However, UK consumers should take into account that many British retailers have a tradition of offering their customers more than the law requires (for example giving consumers their money back if they change their mind for goods bought in store which is not a legal right but up to individual businesses) and whatever the outcome of the debate will continue to do so. But retailers also believe the legal position should provide a fair and balanced starting point. Therefore, the BRC looks forward to working with the UK Government, MEPs and consumers to try to ensure the final outcome provides rights that are fair and broadly acceptable to business and consumers both in the UK and elsewhere.
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SOURCE: British Retail Consortium