Online retailers cannot deduct delivery fee when making refunds
Judges hand out takeaway ruling
Online shopping customers who send back goods straight away must not be charged for their delivery, Europe's top court has said. Consumers can be required to pay the cost of returning the goods but should be refunded every other cost, it said.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said that Germany should not have a law allowing online and postal retailers to refuse to refund delivery costs when a consumer exercises their right of withdrawal.
EU rules on distance selling give consumers an extra right that shop customers do not have, which is the right to return goods for a full refund within seven days of receiving them. This is called the right to withdraw from the contract.
The UK's Distance Selling Regulations govern this right and consumer regulator the Office of Fair Trading has previously ruled that refunds must include the cost of postage or delivery of goods.
The CJEU ruled, though, in a case involving a €4.95 delivery charge by German retailer Heinrich Heine. A consumer rights group brought the case, which was referred to the CJEU.
Heinrich Heine argued that German law does not grant the consumer the right to a refund of the delivery charges, but the German Federal Court said that if German law does say that then it may be in conflict with EU law and would have to be changed.
The Distance Selling Directive says that "the supplier shall be obliged to reimburse the sums paid by the consumer free of charge. The only charge that may be made to the consumer because of the exercise of his right of withdrawal is the direct cost of returning the goods".
"The wording of [the Directive] imposes on the supplier, in the event of the consumer’s withdrawal, a general obligation to reimburse which covers all of the sums paid by the consumer under the contract, regardless of the reason for their payment," said the CJEU's ruling. "Contrary to what the German Government submits, it is not apparent from the wording of Article 6 of [the Directive] or from the general scheme thereof that the terms ‘sums paid’ must be interpreted as referring solely to the price paid by the consumer, excluding the costs borne by him."
The German Government claimed that the Directive's demand that sellers reimburse all costs only applied to those incurred in the actual process of withdrawing from the contract.
The CJEU rejected that view, saying that the costs referred to were all those associated with the whole contract.
"The directive authorise[s] suppliers to charge consumers, in the event of their withdrawal, only the direct cost of returning the goods," the ruling said. "If consumers also had to pay the delivery costs, such a charge, which would necessarily dissuade consumers from exercising their right of withdrawal, would run counter to the very objective of Article 6 of the directive."
"In addition, charging them in that way would compromise a balanced sharing of the risks between parties to distance contracts, by making consumers liable to bear all the costs related to transporting the goods." It said. "Furthermore, the fact that the consumer has been informed of the amount of the delivery costs prior to concluding the contract cannot neutralise the dissuasive effect which the charging of those costs to the consumer would have on his exercise of his right of withdrawal."
"[The Directive] must be interpreted as precluding national legislation which allows the supplier under a distance contract to charge the costs of delivering the goods to the consumer where the latter exercises his right of withdrawal," it said.
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Watch out for the flailing arms and spittle.
Funniest UKIP type propaganda I've seen in a long time.
I almost lost my caffinated product to my keyboard until I realised you were actually serious.
The directive does not mean the customer is not liable for any damage to the goods.
The case you quote would certainly be seen as deliberate and malicious damage and the customer could be, quite rightly, charged.
This directive was agreed (and pushed for) by all the members of the EU (including the UK) in order to improve consumer confidence in online retailing. This was agreed by most of the interested parties to be one of the biggest problems for consumers (not seeing the goods before buying) and the solution a good compromise.
The case that more interests me is what happens if the customer has to damage the packaging to get to the goods i.e. those god awful plastic welded transparent things. Any lawyers in the house?
S*** F*** B******s
Suck it up, man. Every retailer has to bank on a certain level of costly bastardry from their customers, shoplifters, whatever applies to their particular business. Nobody likes it, but these cases are a vanishingly small minority for any business I've ever known.
If people pulling this crap account for a big enough chunk of your profits that you're this worked-up about it, maybe it's time to move on and seek out a new market and/or new customer base.
Forgive the hard-assery; don't get me wrong, I'm apt to have a good swear about it when it happens to me too. Have a pint.
No the distance selling regs are fine how they are. Your example is extreme and no single retailer is being hit with the restocking costs, but that's by the by.
If I'm buying a high value item such as a TV online then of course I should have the right to return if I'm unhappy with the way it performs.
Reviews and popping into Comet are not adequate means of making an informed decision for this type of purchase. Reviews are often filled with fanboi comments and the lighting and display shelf areas of most stores are often badly lit and the TV's badly configured.
Also not everyone has access to a decent independent specialist retailer who has nicely set up auditioning rooms.
Why not have the right to check to your satisfaction that the £1500 42" telly your parting your hard earned cash for is going to do the job?
"It's all one-side in favour of the consumer. Not only do online consumers now have the ability to use both the internet and retail shops to research goods much more comprehensively before ordering, they can now try them for a week free of charge before finally deciding whether to keep them - all at the expense of the retailer."
Is complete BS, because the customer has to bear the cost of returning the item, so clearly it's not "all at the expense of the retailer"!
This was made abundantly clear in the ruling, what a shame you didn't bother to read it!
20 quid delivery and 5 quid item
the DSRs allow for express delivery NOT to be refunded.
You basically charge for the item and p&p, then have a separate charge for express delivery.
The item + standard p&p is refunded, the express delivery service is not (because it's a service)
basically, as long as there's a cheaper delivery method that isn't taking the piss included in the price, the express delivery service is counted as a non-refundable service