The Distance Selling Act is a means of protection for consumers when making purchases on the internet. Products purchased in a physical store can be viewed, tested and held. However, this does not apply to products that consumers buy via the internet. Under the Distance Selling Act, consumers have a reflection period after purchasing a product or service.
The Distance Selling Act
The Distance Selling Act came into effect in the context of streamlining the European internal market. The law also aims to provide better protection for consumers in the case of distance contracts. The most important fact of the law is that, after delivery of a product purchased remotely, the consumer is given a cooling-off period of 7 working days to revoke a transaction without giving reasons or paying a fine. It is important that the product has not suffered any wear or damage. It is untrue that the customer may not have unpacked or tried the product. No user fee may be charged for this. Any wear or damage may be charged for. In addition, the seller may have the customer pay the costs for returning. Administration costs and the costs for shipping the product are borne by the selling party. A legal open question remains who is responsible when packaging damage occurs. In many cases, the selling party will charge the customer an amount for this, but the seller may not automatically refuse the return due to damage to the packaging or because the product has not been returned in the original packaging. The supplier also has an obligation to provide information. This means that the supplier must provide certain information before the purchase is concluded between supplier and consumer. The following information must be provided in writing by the selling party no later than upon delivery:
- identity of the supplier;
- the most important characteristics of the good or service;
- the price;
- the method of payment and delivery;
- any delivery costs;
- the validity period of the offer or the price;
- the right of the consumer to terminate the agreement within a cooling-off period;
- the minimum duration of the agreement when it concerns sustainable or periodic services or product delivery;
- the conditions under which and the manner in which the consumer can exercise the right of withdrawal;
- after sales service and warranty;
- the conditions for terminating the agreement, if it is of indefinite duration or has a duration of more than one year (usually not applicable to purchases via the Internet).
Right of withdrawal
The Distance Selling Act was mainly created for purchases via the computer or other electronic means. It is not possible to test or see purchases made through these channels. For this reason, the legislator considers it necessary to grant the consumer a ‘cooling-off period’ of seven working days , within which he can return the product without giving reasons, or in the case of a service, cancel the agreement. When a product is returned, the consumer must take into account that he or she must pay the bill for the costs, unless expressly agreed otherwise in advance. As a consumer, you must beware of the possibility of service providers to waive the right of withdrawal. This is even possible for products that actually give you this right. This is possible as soon as the delivery of the service has commenced with your consent, within eight days after the conclusion of the agreement.
Exceptions to the right of withdrawal
As the title indicates, there are products for which the right of withdrawal does not apply. In these cases, the consumer also has no option to invoke the Distance Selling Act. In this case, this concerns products that are manufactured in accordance with consumer specifications (custom-made clothing, shoes or travel), are clearly personal in nature or can spoil quickly (flowers). However, it is important that the selling party points out that you cannot invoke your right of withdrawal.
Buying financial services via the internet
However, when you, as a consumer, make a purchase of a financial service, you must be careful. Such a purchase is not subject to the Distance Selling Act, but to the Financial Supervision Act. This means that you may not be able to rely on the right of withdrawal included in the Distance Selling Act.