Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Online shopping - get refund of delivery charges too

If as an EU consumer you order goods from an EU website or indeed by mail order or telephone sales, and you decide you don't want it, under the EU Distance Selling Directive you are entitled to return it and get back the price you paid - as long as within 7 days after receipt you tell the retailer / supplier / vendor that you don't want it (with some exceptions, e.g. you can't return perishable goods like food or cut flowers, or travel-related things like plane tickets).

You have to cancel (i.e. exercise your withdrawal rights) within that time period in writing, but email to their official email address is fine.

Out-law now reports that the European Court of Justice has recently said in the Handelsgesellschaft Heinrich Heine case that not only do you have the right to get the full purchase price back, you are also entitled to a refund of the delivery charge, postage costs, courier fee or whatever they've called it. I.e. what they charged you for the original sending of the goods to you.

What it costs you to post or courier back the goods to the seller is a different matter. It's up to your home country's laws whether you can get a refund for your costs of returning the goods.

In the UK, the seller doesn't have to refund you for return postage, although some decent retailers do it for the sake of customer goodwill and brand reputation (most will refund your expenses for the return, e.g. your postage costs, only if there was something wrong with the product).

So, consumers unite - if an online shopping website doesn't refund you for the original delivery costs, demand it! (But be prepared to pay the full return costs - though they can't charge you an admin fee or restocking charge).

Also note:

  • you can cancel within a "cooling off period" of 7 working days beginning with the day after the day on which you receive the goods; most retailers tell you it's just "7 days", which is wrong, and probably designed to make consumers think it's too late to return something when it isn't
  • if the seller doesn't give you certain info required by law, you have even longer than that to cancel. Most people don't know this. It could even be as long as 3 months and 7 working days after receipt!
  • but the cancellation right doesn't apply to e.g. downloads of software, movies or music
  • if you cancel you obviously have to look after the goods properly (take "reasonable care" of them) till they are collected or you return them, but they don't have to be returned unopened. Equally obviously, you have to package them sensibly so they don't get damaged in the post, and you may have to pay for them or get sued if you didn't look after them or pack them properly and they get damaged etc.
  • strictly, it seems you can even make the seller collect the goods from you if their original contract didn't say you have to return the goods if you cancel! (most website terms will, of course) - but it's safest to return them, reasonably well packaged, even though you have to pay the return costs, as then you're no longer responsible for the goods
  • if there's something wrong with the goods, you still have your normal consumer rights e.g. if they're faulty or defective and the fault only shows up after the 7 working days, and they'll have to pay for your full return costs then (especially if the fault cropped up in the first 6 months after you bought it)
  • the retailer has to reimburse you within 30 days beginning with the day on which you cancelled in writing. Yes, even if they haven't received the goods back yet
  • if the seller tries to say you can't get a refund unless you've returned the goods within X days, actually they shouldn't. It's the cooling off period that counts. See the OFT guide referred to below.

More info:

All this is of course only general info, and up to date only at the date of this post; this isn't legal advice etc, and you ought to consult a suitably qualified lawyer about your own situation if you have an issue.

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