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The right of cancellation: isn’t that just a service?

| 22 September 2015

No, it’s not. I could just stop here, because the answer is basically as simple as that. However, not only will this then be the shortest blog post in the history of Legal ICT, it would also mean I cannot share some valuable information with our readers. At Legal ICT we believe sharing is caring. So please, read along.

Whenever you buy something in a brick and mortar shop (the ones you cannot control from behind your screen), those companies are, at least in the Netherlands, actually not legally required to accept returns from their customers. So with regards to physical shops, the answer to the above question would indeed have been ‘yes’. Most companies do indeed offer the right of cancellation, just by means of an additional service.

In the online world it’s all just a bit different. This is understandable, since by ordering a nice pair of shoes over the Internet, in most cases you cannot be entirely sure whether or not they live up to your expectations. They might be too small, too big, or just not your liking. The reasons for withdrawing doesn’t even matter, because regardless of that reason you have a legal right to withdraw from the contract. Just because it’s a contract concluded at a distance. Nothing more, nothing less. This right lasts for a period of 14 days and starts the day you – or a designated third party – have received the ordered items or services.

So what if I forget to mention this or mention a shorter period of time? This is a legal right, so it shouldn’t even be mentioned in the first place, I hear you think. Since we’re dealing with consumers, a group that needs more protection, the European legislator believes web shop owners should go further than that. They have an obligation to provide certain information, and clearly stating the return period is one of them. Just as providing your business identity and the withdrawal form are. So should you forget to mention any of the legally required information, you are breaching the law and because of that, consumers have the right to return their purchases for a period of one year. They may return it, regardless of the condition of the products.

If this wasn’t enough, web shop owners may also incur fines from their respective national supervisory bodies. In the Netherlands the Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) is the authority overseeing these as well as other matters.

If you did not already have the interest of you customers at heart, at least it should be because of the above that you pay careful attention to consumer protection laws. We know law – yes somtimes even for us – can be quite hard to digest, so over a number of blog posts we shall keep you informed and lay down the basics for web shop owners.