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New rights mean shoppers can buy with confidence across EU - 23/12/2013

Credit card in hand, a shopper makes an online purchase using a laptop keyboard

Stronger consumer rights will give shoppers more protection wherever they shop in the EU, particularly online.

The introduction this month of new consumer rights across all 28 EU countries should make shopping - online or in the high street - safer for Europe’s 507m inhabitants.

Under the new rules, you have 14 days to return items if you change your mind for any reason after buying online or by phone or mail order. This cooling-off period applies EU-wide.

On top of that, traders must refund your money – including delivery costs - within 14 days if you decide to cancel. Traders who want buyers to bear the cost of returning goods if they change their minds have to make this clear beforehand.

More transparency

Buyers will also enjoy stronger cancellation rights when they complete a purchase following a home visit by a trader or buy items through online auctions.

A ban on pre-ticked boxes for online purchases means that when buying a plane ticket, for instance, you won't unintentionally end up buying travel insurance as well.  Until now, consumers wanting to opt out of extra services have often had to un-tick boxes.

No hidden costs

Traders will now have to make clear the total cost of buying a product or service. This means you won’t be hit by extra charges or other costs if you weren't told about them before ordering.

Surcharges for using credit cards will be capped from now on. This means traders can't charge you more than the actual cost they incur by offering this means of payment.

Being kept waiting on an expensive premium rate hotline number will also become a thing of the past, as the new rules ban traders operating hotlines from charging over the basic rate for standard phone calls.

The new set of consumer rights – which replaces 4 directives – was originally agreed in 2011. EU countries then had until December 2013 to implement the Consumer Rights Directive in national law.

FAQs: Strengthened rights for consumers

Commission proposal (2008)

Rules on consumer rights (2011)

The Directive on Consumer Rights

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