Brexit could take back consumer rights that give online shoppers a 14 day ‘cooling off’ period to return items. The result could mean less protection for shoppers, but be welcomed by e-commerce retailers, says ParcelHero.
Startling new research from the UK parcel price comparison site ParcelHero reveals Brexit may impact on UK consumer rights – and in particular on internet shoppers’ rights to return almost any item within 14 days, even if they are not faulty.
ParcelHero’s influential new report on the impact of returns on UK retailers, Retailers Reach the Point of No Returns, revealed 8% of internet shoppers now regularly return items several times a month under new legislation, while over 10% buy several sizes of clothes and shoes, and simply send back the ones that don’t fit.
But, warns ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT: ‘Shoppers’ rights to return almost any item within 14 days were only introduced in 2014 with the UK’s Consumer Contracts Regulations. British consumers won this protection because the UK Government was forced to implement the European Union (EU) European Consumer Rights Directive into UK law.’
Explains David: ‘Before the EU law was introduced, online shoppers had just 7 days to return items. Many consumers say that is insufficient time to make up your mind on an item. Axing the EU-based Consumer Contracts Regulations could mean a return to just a week’s grace before sending back unwanted goods. And that may well not leave busy consumers enough time to discover a product doesn’t fit or live up to their expectations.’
And the EU law also introduced several other critical protections that UK consumers could lose, says David. ‘Online retailers are no longer able to use sneaky pre-ticked boxes at checkout, for extra insurance for example. Nor can a trader any longer charge you more for using a particular means of payment, such as a credit card. Similarly, if a trader operates a telephone helpline, the trader cannot charge you more than the basic telephone rate for calls to it.’
David fears: ‘After Brexit there is nothing to stop the Consumer Contracts Regulations being repealed; as the EU regulations behind the law will cease to have effect. That could spell a return to the bad old days of the former UK Distance Selling Regulations, and potentially losing all these new rights.’
Says David: ‘Don't assume that won't happen. We could well see strong pressure, particularly from domestic UK retailers not involved in overseas selling, for at least returning to the original seven-day rule. Many retailers felt this ensured items were less likely to be used and then returned once finished with.’
However, some small business owners argue in ParcelHero’s report that consumers may gain even more rights! Says David: ‘On the other hand, some e-tailers claim that in many cases British law goes one step beyond basic EU requirements. Far from seeing a reversion to 7 days, we may even see an extension of the 14-day period to 21 days, in order to enhance consumer rights still further. And that, some traders argue, would be the final straw for smaller e-commerce sites operating on wafer thin margins, who lose money on every return.’
Concludes David: ‘If the Regulations are overturned post-Brexit, it opens a whole can of worms. Shoppers and retailers will doubtless be examining the final EU divorce agreement closely as more details emerge.’