How the new EU directive will affect online retailers


Michael Hope

Analytics and Data Science

A new EU Directive on Consumer Rights will come into effect on June 13 this year and is likely to have a major impact on most, if not all, businesses.

The main elements of this new legislation, which was passed in December last year, are designed to protect consumers when purchasing from businesses as well as providing competitiveness of enterprises. At its core the directive is aiming to align rights across the 27 member states of the EU and also to provide more clarity on consumer rights by being more defined.


How will this affect me?

This question is difficult to answer as many areas of the directive could affect your business or the business you work for. It is totally dependent upon the market your business is in and how it operates.

But one thing is sure – the vast majority of companies will be affected by this in one way or another. Many online companies may require a complete restructure of processes and systems to ensure compliance.

The first change of note in the UK that the new law dictates is the cooling off window (the time in which the consumer can cancel their order), is to be increased from the current seven working days to 14 calendar days.

This brings it in line with many other members of the EU including Germany who already provide this for consumers. The directive also states that a consumer can cancel the order and return the goods for any reason.

There are a lot of changes in this directive and it is difficult to highlight everything here, (if you are interested in learning more take a look at this), however I would like to point out a few of the changes that will directly affect businesses that sell products online. It is very interesting to note that this directive now includes information dedicated exclusively to online businesses – and this speaks volumes of how quickly ecommerce markets are growing.


Changes to refunds are really incorporated into the same area as the updated cooling off period mentioned above. Businesses will now need to give refunds if the consumer returns the goods within the first 14 calendar days of purchase. Potentially the most controversial part of the directive is that, a refund for the standard delivery option must also be included when paid. That being said one saving grace is that businesses do not have to refund the delivery cost until they have received the goods back from the consumer.

The changes to refunds incorporate more detail including how to handle returns that are damaged due to unreasonable care. It will become essential for businesses and their employees to fully understand the changes to refund policies prior to the go live date on June 13th 2014.

Opt-in tick boxes

The directive defines that it will no longer be acceptable for websites to contain pre-ticked boxes that cross sell or offer extras during the sales process. An example of this in practice can be seen below.

Although this technique has been frowned upon for a while now, it is still used on many websites. The new legislation will ensure that this practice is outlawed and will prevent consumers unknowingly paying additional cost on their purchase.

buy now

Order buttons

Confirm order buttons at the end of a checkout process will need a radical change according to the directives documentation. Currently best practice is usually to have a button stating Confirm Order or Buy Now which under the new legislation will no longer be sufficient.

These buttons will need to provide context and make it clear that a contractual agreement is being entered into. The regulation itself highlights a suggestion for the content of the buttons as “Order with obligation to pay”. As an experienced conversion optimisation strategist this sends a shudder down my spine! It can already be a tough job getting users to commit to purchasing online and adding this could not only make the purchase sound more committal and scary but could confuse users who have no idea what this means.

Although I have my reservations about this regulation I can completely understand why the EU thinks it is necessary to implement. The idea itself is designed to safeguard consumers from buying or entering into a contract that they didn’t want in the first place. What is clear however is that to abide by this legislation, companies will need to think hard about what copy and context they want the content to portray whilst managing anxieties and additional questions that could arise due to the change.

Furthermore it is important to remember that although these changes seem like a scary prospect for some companies, we should remember back to when the EU outlined the cookie policy that required sites to explicitly indicate to users that cookies were in use on the site and how they were used, then requiring the users permission to be tracked.

At the time many companies were worried about the impact this would have on their sales and what changes would need to be made in order to comply. However the cookie policy is now common place on sites and consumers are getting used to this element being present. The resulting impact was not as bad as had originally been feared.

In summary this directive is definitely something that all companies in the UK need to be very aware of, whether they sell online, offline or both. If you have any questions about how the directive will affect your business please get in touch on 0113 212 1211 or [email protected].