Consumers are increasingly buying online from foreign stores in the European Union and beyond. Since the new geoblocking rules it is even possible for you to compare prices throughout the whole EU and to make online purchases wherever you want. One internal market without borders and the same rules as protecting you as a consumer.
Are you obliged to pay for unsolicited goods? Do you know your rights regarding the return of an online purchase? Or do you have a complaint about a product of service from a foreign entrepreneur?
The European Consumer Center provides you with free legal advice about online purchases and mediates when you have a conflict with an entrepreneur in a different EU country, Norway or Iceland. Here you will find information, tips and sample letters that helps you to move forward.
What are the rules?
Good to know
I received an unsolicited good. What do I have to do?
If you have received an unsolicited product, you are allowed to keep it without paying for it. If you would rather return the product anyway, you can contact the sender. The costs of the return shipment are for their account. Note that if you choose to keep the product and pay for it, you will enter into an agreement with the entrepreneur after all.
Tips for buying online
The internet is filled with unreliable entrepreneurs. They are out to get your money or do not follow the rules. There is a significant chance of falling victim to one of these malicious entrepreneurs. We have listed some tips to help you minimise this risk:
- When you pay by credit card, it is easier to get your money back if there is a problem;
- Check the seller’s privacy statement for details on what is done with your personal information;
- Check whether the website is secure: look for the padlock icon in your browser’s address bar;
- Check whether the website is a member of a branch association or whether it has any other hallmarks;
- Always read the website’s general terms and conditions, including the fine print;
- Make sure you always have the seller’s name and contact information;
- Read other consumers’ reviews of the seller.
I have a complaint about a purchase from a non-EU country. Who can help me?
If you have a complaint about a purchase made in a non-European Union country, for example China or the United States (US) and you cannot solve the problem with the trader then it is possible to contact the consumer authority in the country where the trader is established. You can find a list with contact information on this website.
Did you pay by credit card? Please also contact your credit card company to file a complaint. In some of the cases you can ask for chargeback.
The seller is required to provide information about the cooling-off period
If there is a cooling-off period, the seller is required to inform you of this. Furthermore, they must also provide you with the following information:
- The duration of the cooling-off period;
- How you can invoke the cooling-off period;
- The conditions that apply to invoking the cooling-off period;
- The costs of returning the product;
- A standard cancellation form.
Even if there is no cooling-off period, the seller must inform you of this. If the seller does not or not sufficiently inform you of this, the cooling-off period and all associated rights are extended by a period of up to 12 months.
If you have a question about the cooling-off period of a product and the answer is not found on this website, feel free to contact one of our legal advisers.
What are my rights when I buy online?
If you purchase something online from your own or a foreign country, you have a right to a decent product, a 14-day cooling-off period and completeness of information. These rules do not apply to all situations. Examples of exceptions are:
- Package tours;
- Gambling activities where you bet with actual money;
- Timeshare and holiday club agreements.