Distance Selling Regulations

Have you bought a product or service online or by telephone from a company established in the EU, Norway or Iceland? Then you can rely on a 14-day cooling-off period in most cases. During this withdrawal period, you have the right to terminate your purchase without providing any reason (cancellation). Furthermore, the seller has an obligation to provide you with full information before the transaction of the online purchase regarding price, payment, delivery and fulfilment of the purchase contract. These rules are set out in the Distance Selling Act.

The European Consumer Centre provides legal advice free of charge regarding ‘distance contracts’ and can mediate in disputes if you cannot come to a satisfactory agreement with the company. Our website offers information, tips and template letters to help you take steps.

Distance Selling Regulations, ECC Netherlands

Good to know

When is a transaction contract classed as a distance contract?

If you order a product or service online or by telephone, you are committing to a distance contract. This means you have no live contact with the seller. Examples of distance buying are:

  • online purchase from an online shop;
  • purchasing an item from a mail order company;
  • buying a product or service during a phone call;
  • purchasing an item using an order form, voucher or gift check.

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What are my rights regarding distance buying?

When distance buying, you have consumer rights that apply to any purchases and also to a number of additional rights, such as the right to terminate the purchase. This is called the right of withdrawal.

If you regret your purchase within 14 days, or the product or service is disappointing in reality, you are generally allowed to terminate your purchase without providing any grounds. This is subject to the condition of returning the product or service in its original state.  

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Which general information about the product or service should the seller provide to me?

The seller must provide you with full and complete information before the distance contract is agreed, in particular regarding the identity of the seller and contact details for complaints and questions. This information must be available to you and easy and quick to find.

Mandatory disclosure of the seller - general information

  • Name of the seller;
  • Background information;
  • Office/shop address;
  • Correspondence address for complaints;
  • Code of Conduct (optional);
  • Contact details, for example email address, telephone and/or fax number;
  • Telephone charges (if above the standard rate).

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What information should the seller give me about the product or service?

Regarding distance contracts, the seller must provide you with full and clear information about the products or services offered to you in order to help you avoid an unwanted purchase.

Mandatory disclosure of the company - product or service

  • Key characteristics of the product or service;
  • Total price;
  • Delivery charges (if applicable);
  • Additional charges (if applicable);
  • Term of the agreement (if applicable);
  • Warranty;
  • Delivery time.

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What information should the seller provide to me about a digital product or service?

The seller has an obligation to provide you with full and clear information before entering into a purchase contract for a digital product or digital service in order to ensure you understand your rights and obligations.

Mandatory disclosure of seller - digital product or digital service

  • Compatibility of hardware and software;
  • Which device you require to be able to use the product or service;
  • Which media you require to be able to use the product or service;
  • The relevant safety and/or security instructions.

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What information should the seller provide to me when purchasing a subscription?

The seller has an obligation to provide you with full and clear information before entering into a purchase contract for a digital product or digital service in order to ensure you avoid subscribing to an unwanted service or product.

Mandatory disclosure of the seller - subscriptions

  • Term of the subscription;
  • Conditions of the subscription;
  • Automatic or conditional renewal of the subscription;
  • Termination of the subscription;
  • Notice period;
  • Minimum or default term of the subscription and payment.

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What information should the seller provide to me about the cooling-off period?

The seller has an obligation to provide you with full and clear information about the cooling-off period in order to ensure you understand your rights and obligations. Even if a cooling-off period is not set out in the terms and conditions, the seller must provide you with such information. If the seller does not provide full information regarding the cooling-off period, the cooling-off period is automatically extended by a maximum of 12 months.

Mandatory disclosure of the seller – cooling-off period

  • Expiration of the cooling-off period (generally 14 days);
  • How to make use of the cooling-off period;
  • Conditions that apply to making use of the cooling-off period;
  • Charges for returning the product;
  • Template form for withdrawal.

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The seller provided incorrect information. Can I cancel my purchase?

If the seller has not provided full and complete information about your purchase, you have the right to terminate the purchase contract. You may cancel your purchase if:

  • the seller provided you with incomplete or incorrect information regarding the product or service;
  • the seller was aware that certain information would be essential for closing the purchase contract;
  • you would not have concluded the purchase contract if you had had the full and complete information at the time.

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Why do I not have a cooling-off period?

The 14-day cooling-off period during which you can cancel the purchase does not apply for all products bought by means of a district contract. You are not granted a cooling-off period for:

  • Products tailor-made for you;
  • Travel, transport, catering etc.
  • Print media (loose newspapers, magazines, journals etc.);
  • Products with a short shelf life;
  • CD’s and DVD’s with seals broken after delivery;
  • Beauty products with seals broken after delivery;
  • Hygiene-sensitive products such as underwear, swimwear and sex toys;
  • Emergency repairs.

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Which exceptions apply to distance contracts?

The rules of distance contracts do not apply to all products and services bought by means of a distance contract. Exceptions that do not fall within the scope of the above rules are:

  • Gambling activities;
  • Financial services;
  • Package travel;
  • Passenger transportation services;
  • Real estate;
  • Social services;
  • Healthcare.

Please note: if you buy one of the above exceptions or make use of such services, you are not protected by the Distance Selling Act.

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Which rules apply for the order procedure in an online shop?

The seller has an obligation to set up the order procedure of the online shop in such a way that it is absolutely clear to you that you are about to make a purchase. The order button must clearly indicate that you are placing an order and accept a payment obligation as soon as you click the button. If this is not stated clearly enough, you are not legally bound to honour the purchase contract. Furthermore, it must be possible to click through the order process with ease, and any additional options that are available at additional charges should not be ticked by default.

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I have purchased a product online and was charged an additional fee.

The seller may charge a fee in addition to the product price, including shipping charges, administrative charges and for using a specific payment method. Such charges must be clearly stated during the order process in order to help you avoid any unpleasant surprises. If the seller does not provide full and correct details in this respect, you do not need to pay such charges. The charges may not exceed the actual price of the item you purchased.

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Is a purchase contract valid without confirmation in writing?

The seller has the obligation to send you a confirmation of the purchase contract as soon after your online purchase as possible. If you have entered into a contract by telephone (telemarketing) for the performance of a service for a certain period, this is not valid until you receive a confirmation accordingly by post or email.

Examples of such services include: supplying electric power, water and gas; a mobile telephone subscription; or a heating boiler maintenance contract.

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Which rules apply to delivery times in case of a distance contract?

The seller has an obligation to delivery of your product within 30 days of your purchase, unless a different delivery time was agreed with you. If the seller does not deliver the item on time, Propose a new delivery time in writing (by post or email). This term must naturally be reasonable, e.g. 14 days. If the seller does not respond, you have the right to dissolve the contract and the seller must refund you immediately. 

Have you completed the above steps and you are unable to agree on a solution? Then please contact our legal specialists. We can mediate between you and the company. Free of charge.

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Which information does the seller need to provide to me about the delivery in case of a distance contract?

When you agree to a distance contract, you want to know how, when and on which conditions the product or service will be delivered. The seller has an obligation to provide you with full and clear information about the delivery of the product or service.

Mandatory disclosure of the seller – delivery

  • How does delivery take place;
  • When the purchase will be delivered;
  • The charges associated with delivery;
  • Any restrictions;
  • The risks of the shipment;
  • How the service will be fulfilled.

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I want to terminate my purchase within the cooling-off period. How do I do that?

If you want to return a product within the cooling-off period, you can inform the seller accordingly in different ways. For example, you can make use of the model form for withdrawal. Every seller must have this withdrawal form on the website.

Alternatively, you can write a letter or email explaining that you want to cancel your purchase. You can use our model letter for withdrawal of purchase within cooling-off period.

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What can I do with my purchase during the cooling-off period?

When agreeing to a distance contract, you have not been able to see the product as you could in a shop. That is why you are allowed to remove your item, such as clothes or shoes, from the packaging to try it on at home. You are also allowed to open the packaging of other products to see the item. This does not apply to sealed products, such as digital products or items sealed for hygiene reasons.

Also, you are not permitted to use the product during the cooling-off period if you are unsure whether you want to keep it. Have you done something with the item during the cooling-off period that was not necessary to evaluate the item and you want to return the item? Then the seller reserves the right to demand a compensation after receiving the item returned.

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May I return my purchase after breaking the seal?

When agreeing to a distance contract for a product that is sealed for hygiene reasons or sealed digital products, you are not permitted to break the seal to test the product and then return it. The withdrawal right expires as soon as you break the seal.

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What information should the seller give me about the service after the purchase transaction?

If you buy something, you are entitled to a good product. That means that the product will do what you could reasonably expect it to do. If the product does not meet your expectations, you are entitled to repair or replacement. The seller has an obligation to provide you with full and clear information about the service after your purchase in case of a distance contract in order to ensure you understand what to expect.

Mandatory disclosure company – after-sales service

  • complaints procedure;
  • whether the seller participates in a complaints or disputes committee and how you can start the complaints procedure;
  • Code of Conduct (which one, and how this affects you);
  • manufacturer’s warranty term and conditions;
  • extra guarantees.

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I have a complaint regarding an online seller. Where can I file it?

If you have a complaint about an online seller, we recommend you to first contact the seller to see if you can agree on a solution. If the company does not respond to your complaint about your online purchase, you can lodge a complaint with the European Consumer Centre or via the ODR platform.

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Who supervises and enforces the seller’s compliance with the mandatory disclosure?

The Netherlands Consumer and Markets Authority (ACM) supervises and enforces the seller’s compliance with the mandatory disclosure. If a seller does not comply with regulations, the ACM can impose enforcement measures. The purpose is to create a playing field where sellers comply with the rules and you invoke your rights.

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