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Government opens dialogue over e-commerce rights

31 July 2012 - 09:56 by Mike Price

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The government is hoping to consult with the public about the implementation of new rights, which will protect certain aspects of safe shopping online, so that consumers have more powers.

The European Consumer Rights Directive has already been fine tuned centrally, but in the UK, the government has 24 months to put its specific rules into a legally enforceable state.

The new rules have been created because consumers were previously having to deal with regulations that were originally conceived long before e-commerce became a major channel for retail.

One of the main changes which will be made by the directive is to double the cooling off period, during which consumers are able to return goods for a refund, which, at the moment, is seven days but will become 14.

Because safe shopping online necessarily has longer lead times because of the need for delivery, it makes sense to give consumers more time to send back unwanted items, without suffering unwanted consequences.

The new rules will also cut down on the charges which can be added to credit or debit card transactions by some e-commerce sites, as well as making it illegal for companies to set up customer help lines which are charged at a premium rate.

Finally, the eradication of those info-sharing options which you have to opt out of by unticking a box on some sites, will be greeted gratefully by many UK consumers, since it means less spam and less confusion at checkout.

Ministers will be consulting with consumers throughout the summer and there is also a secondary, UK-specific bill, being thrashed out at the moment.

If both are put into practice, 2013 could be a very good year for consumers who love e-commerce but want to see more power given to them.