Ireland has a web-savvy population, 70% of which shops online, with 60% of all purchases made from sellers based within the EU, which makes it one of the countries with the highest spending power per e-shopper in Western Europe. The leading marketplace in 2019 in Ireland was Amazon (where 58% of sales are by third-party merchants), but there is a surge in own-webshop, online operations by all sizes of retailers in both Ireland and across the EU. Online selling in Europe is growing steadily every year and Europe as a whole continues to be the largest B2C e-commerce market in the world. Mobile e-commerce is expected to account for nearly 50% of all online sales in 2020 (ec.europa.eu/eurostat).
Research shows that consumers have increasingly higher expectations when it comes to clarity and transparency of online transactions, particularly when it comes to product information, shipping methods and returns management. Online shoppers also look for seamless purchase, fulfilment, and service experiences, and online retailers now focus on optimising the customer journey with e-commerce websites that are responsively designed, easy to use, and fully compatible on mobile platforms. Moreover, in a competitive, ever-growing global e-commerce market, online retailers should also concentrate in gaining trust with customers (ecommerce-europe.eu).
Here are some basic tips on how that can be done to the benefit of both:
Any online trader that sells goods or services to consumers, either nationally within Ireland, or cross-border within the European Union, must comply with Irish and EU legislation*.
First and foremost, traders have a legal obligation to clearly state their company/trading name, postal and e-mail addresses, where available, on their own websites as well as on marketplaces such as Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, etc. According to the latest consumer legislation, traders cannot discriminate against consumers who live in different countries, but do not have to offer delivery services (rather, the consumers may arrange their own collection and delivery). In addition, gift vouchers (including electronic vouchers) issued by Irish companies are to be valid for at least 5 years.
Online traders should consider using trust marks.
The EU Trusted Shops is Europe’s most popular e‑commerce trustmark. It means that certified shops are in line with comprehensive quality criteria, offer their customers financial risk protection with money-back guarantee, and handle personal data with care (trustedshops.eu).
In Ireland, Retail Excellence promotes cross-border trade and provides the Irish eCommerceTrustmark, which means the webshop has passed a European standard of excellence when it comes to user experience and secure payments. Statistics show that a trust-marked website will increase conversion rates by 40% and basket sizes by 30% (retailexcellence.ie).
The Ecommerce Europe Trustmark stimulates cross-border e-commerce through better protection for consumers and merchants by establishing one European set of rules and by ensuring clear communication on these rules (ecommercetrustmark.eu).
Advertising And Pricing
All marketing by online retailers must comply with the general principles that govern all advertising – it must be legal and truthful. It is an offence to make false or misleading claims about your goods or services and prices. By law, businesses must display tax-inclusive prices of goods and services, including VAT and not have any extra “hidden” charges. Learn more on: asai.ie.
Websites of online retailers must feature a set of Terms and Conditions, in plain, intelligible, unambiguous language, with clear, comprehensive information on the goods, pricing, delivery, method of payment, withdrawal/cooling-off period, complaints handling process, after-sales service, returns and refund policy, etc. Consumer contracts can be deemed unfair if any of the terms therein causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations to the detriment of the consumer. Learn more on: ccpc.ie/business.
All websites must use a secure payment and check-out processing systems to ensure sensitive customer transaction data will be protected. Pre-ticked boxes for additional payments are not permitted, and traders are required to seek consent for any additional payments. Traders cannot charge more for using a particular means of payment, such as a credit card.
Products offered on your website must be of merchantable quality, fit for purpose, as described, and correspond to any samples or models used. Consumers have the same rights when buying second-hand products as they have when buying new ones, though they might not be expected to be as durable as a brand new item.
If a fault occurs within the first 6 months after delivery, the consumer has the right to have the product repaired or replaced at no extra cost, unless the damage occurred through improper maintenance or misuse. Consumers can also seek a refund, before and after the 6 months (in the latter case, the consumer must prove the fault existed at the time of the delivery), if the trader does not or cannot offer a repair or replacement.
Some products come with a manufacturer’s guarantee and retailers also have the option of offering their own guarantee – the terms of these guarantees must feature in writing alongside the products they pertain to.
Delivery And Returns
Consumers must be informed of any delivery restrictions by the beginning of the ordering process. After an order is completed, the seller has 30 days to deliver it, unless otherwise agreed with the buyer. If the trader is unable to uphold these terms, it must inform the consumer, who in turn must agree to a revised date of delivery. If the contract is not fulfilled during this additional period of time, the customer will be entitled to terminate the purchase contract and obtain a refund.
In the EU, customers have 14 working days to cancel or withdraw from an online and distance purchase without having to give any reason. When a customer exercises this right, traders have 14 days to refund the money. For digital content purchases, the cooling-off period expires when the downloading / streaming starts.
Exclusions apply to this cooling-off period; these include: perishable goods, personalised / custom-made items, single-issue publications, gaming and lottery services, unsealed items that cannot be returned for hygiene reasons, tickets for events, reservations for flights, hotels or holiday homes, car rental. Nevertheless, the trader must inform customers where an item or service falls within these exclusions.
If a consumer is entitled to a refund, this can be made in cash, by cheque or by credit / debit card. A credit note is not an adequate form of remedy unless the consumer voluntarily accepts it.
The only charge that may be made to the customer after items are returned is the direct cost of returning the goods unless the trader has agreed to bear them or the trader failed to inform the consumer that the consumer has to bear them.
All websites must provide contact details that can be used by consumers to notify faults and submit complaints. If a trader operates a telephone helpline for customer service or complaints, it cannot charge more than the national rate.
Complaints against traders based in Ireland are handled by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (ccpc.ie), including through an out-of-court Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) body. Since 2016, both domestic and cross-border consumer–trader disputes can be settled by using the Online Dispute Resolution platform provided by the European Commission (ec.europa.eu/consumers/odr). The European Consumer Centre Ireland can help clarify the legal rights of the parties in cross-border disputes and assist in reaching a fair agreement. For assistance, contact us here.
Both traders and consumers can avail of the Irish Small Claims Procedure in the courts in Ireland (courts.ie) and the European Small Claims Procedure (e-justice.europa.eu) for cross-border disputes.
Learn more about trader rights and obligations as well as useful information for doing business online here:
Practical guide to doing business in Europe
Selling goods and services in the European Union
E-commerce, distance and off-premises selling in the European Union
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