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Distance selling

Updated 03/2013

Distance selling - by phone or internet - offers many advantages, but it also entails certain obligations.

What contracts count as ‘distance selling’?

‘Distance selling’ is when you don't see your client face-to-face when, for example, selling or receiving orders:

  • on the internet
  • on the phone, with or without human interaction
  • via email
  • via fax
  • via standard letter.

The rules for distance selling do not apply to:

  • products sold in automatic vending machines or at auctions
  • food and drink for everyday consumption
  • accommodation, transport, catering and leisure services (provided you commit to delivering these services on a specific date or within a specific period).

Distance selling of financial, insurance and investment products and services is subject to separate rules.

What are your obligations?

  • Giving information to your customers before concluding the contract
  • Sending a written confirmation to your customers
  • Allowing your customers to withdraw from the contract
  • Delivering your product/service and providing after-sales services if appropriate.

What information should you give?

Before concluding the contract with your customer, you should provide the following information, in clear and understandable terms:

  • price of your product/service including all taxes and the period of validity of the price
  • any delivery costs
  • payment possibilities
  • main features of your product or service
  • how much it costs the customer to communicate with you (if not calculated at a basic rate - e.g. phone calls charged at higher rates than local calls)
  • the conditions governing the customer's right of withdrawal.

How can you confirm the contract?

You should confirm the main points of the contract - already explained in the ‘information phase’ - in a letter or email (or via other durable medium).

When can your customer withdraw?

Your customer has at least 7 working days to withdraw from the contract without any penalty and without giving any reason. The only costs for which the customer is liable are the costs of returning the goods delivered.

Provided you gave all the necessary information, the withdrawal period starts on the day your customer receives the product. If you sold a service, it starts on the day the contract was concluded.

If you failed to provide all the necessary information, the customer has 3 months to withdraw from the contract. If at some point during those 3 months you do furnish all the necessary information, the withdrawal period starts at that time.

What to do if your customer withdraws from the contract?

You must reimburse the money received from the customer within 30 days. If the customer paid with a credit card, you must cancel the transaction.

Your customer may not withdraw if the contract was for:

  • a service you began providing, with their agreement, before the end of the withdrawal period
  • a tailor-made product developed according to their specifications
  • perishable goods
  • audio recordings, video recordings or software that they removed from their wrapping
  • newspapers or magazines, gaming or lottery services.

Rules for delivery of your product/service

Unless agreed otherwise in the contract, you must deliver your product/service within 30 days after the order is placed.

If you will be unable to deliver the product within 30 days, you must inform the customer and reimburse them within 30 days.

In certain EU countries you are entitled to supply your customer with a comparable product or service at the same price if this option appears before the contract is concluded or in the contract. If your customer returns the alternative product, you will have to pay the return costs.



Help & advice

Help & advice

Your Product Contact Point can inform you on national product legislation and help you access another national market in the EU.

Online points of single contact in every EU country can help you with every step of the procedure to set up your services business abroad.

Commercial dispute with a supplier or client from another EU country? For claims of up to € 2000 use European Small Claims Procedure to claim your money back hassle-free.

Your Europe Advice is a source of expert advice for any issues you encounter in another EU country that involve EU law.

Solvit can assist you to solve a dispute with an official body of a Member state without going to court and free of charge.
Submit your online complaint or visit a Solvit centre in your country.

E-mail a business organisation near you

The EU runs a network (Enterprise Europe Network) of local business organisations in most European countries that may be able to help you.

Choose your country and town and enter your enquiry below.

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