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Updated : 30/11/2015


Shopping online

If you buy a product or service online after 13 June 2014 you benefit from more favourable consumer protection rules. To name but a few:

  • essential information before concluding the contract,
  • no unjustified surcharges for payment by credit cards (or other means),
  • delivery within the agreed time,
  • returning unwanted goods,
  • paying only for things that you have expressly agreed to.

What you should know before buying

Wherever you buy a product or service in the EU, whether in a shop or online, the trader must provide you with certain clear, correct and understandable key information about the product or service before you make the purchase.

Before you enter into a contract with an online trader or service provider, the following more detailed information must be provided:

  • main characteristics of the product or service
  • name and physical address of the trader
  • e‑mail address and/or telephone number
  • total price including all additional costs, such as delivery, or, if not known in advance, at least information about how the price is to be calculated
  • information about payment and delivery procedures, in particular about delivery restrictions in certain countries
  • the right of withdrawal
  • available after-sales services
  • duration of the contract
  • dispute resolution mechanisms
  • trade register number
  • professional title and VAT details (if applicable)
  • professional association to which the provider belongs (if applicable)


This prior information forms part of the contract unless you and the trader jointly agree on changes to the terms given on, for example, the trader's website.

Contracts must be written in plain and understandable language and cannot contain unfair contract terms.

Your consumer rights under EU rules normally also apply to purchases from non-EU online traders targeting consumers in the EU. However, please be aware that you may have more difficulties in claiming your rights against traders based outside the EU.

It's always good to check where the trader is registered. An internet address ending ".eu", ".ie", or "", etc. does NOT guarantee that the trader is based – and registered – in the EU.


Digital content

Specific information requirements apply when you buy digital content online, e.g. when downloading or streaming music or video. Before you make the purchase, you must also be informed how the content operates with relevant hardware/software (interoperability) and about its functionality, including whether any geographical restrictions apply to the use of the content and if private copies are allowed.


You also enjoy the right of withdrawal within 14 days from concluding the contract for online digital content. However, once you start downloading or streaming the content you may no longer withdraw from the purchase, provided that the trader has complied with his obligations. Specifically, the trader must first obtain your explicit agreement to the immediate download or streaming, and you must explicitly acknowledge that you lose your right to withdraw once the performance has started.

Sample story:

Lucrezia wanted to watch a movie online on a video on demand website. Before paying, a pop-up window appeared indicating that she must consent to the immediate performance and acknowledge that she would lose her right of withdrawal once the performance had started.

Lucrezia ticked the corresponding box, and was then directed to the payment page. Having paid, the movie started to stream and she was no longer entitled to withdraw from the contract.


Purchase confirmation, delivery and additional costs

Purchase confirmation

When you purchase online, you must receive a confirmation of your transaction without delay. For online purchases, this can be an e-mail or a message to your personal account on the trader's website, provided it is something you can store and which the trader cannot unilaterally change.


Delivery costs

For online purchases, you must also be clearly informed of the total price including delivery and other related costs, and actively acknowledge, e.g. by pressing a button or similar, that you are aware of all of these, and that placing an order implies an obligation to pay.

Be aware that, just as for orders placed in shops, online orders should also be delivered within 30 days , unless you agreed on a different delivery date with the trader.


Sample story

In mid-November Andrej from Slovakia ordered a case of wine online from Italy for his family's Christmas celebrations. Christmas came and went, without the wine being delivered.

As the product was not delivered within 30 days, even though he had reminded the trader and given him some additional time to deliver, Andrej is entitled to a refund from the trader.


Fees for the use of means of payment

If a trader wishes to charge you for using a specific means of payment – for instance a credit card – then the fee cannot be higher than what it actually costs him to process your payment. In some countries such fees may be banned altogether.


Additional "hidden" costs - Ban on pre-ticked boxes

When you purchase something from a trader you must always be given the possibility to agree explicitly to any additional "hidden" costs, such as travel insurance when you book a flight. It is illegal for traders to infer your agreement by using "pre-ticked" boxes during the purchase process.


Returning unwanted goods

When you buy goods or services by post, telephone, fax or on the internet from a professional trader based in the EU, you have the right to return unwanted goods within 14 days from receiving the goods.


Subscriptions to internet services


The provider must give you information on:

  • applicable prices, rates and charges, including options and packages
  • standard terms and conditions
  • quality of service (for example, download speeds).


Sample story

Laura from Romania wanted to get an internet connection at home, but wasn't sure about the quality of services provided by the various packages on offer.

Luckily - as required by law - all the service providers gave sufficient details on their websites. And Laura was able to get even more information from the Romanian national regulatory authorities for electronic communications.


The provider must also:

  • notify you well in advance if they want to change the contract (for example, raise their rates)
  • allow you to withdraw from the contract without penalty if you don't accept any of the new conditions
  • offer reasonable minimum contract periods - for example 1 year. Minimum contracts of 2 years or more are illegal.


Sample story

Eric wanted to get an internet connection in his flat during his 1‑year stay in London on a university exchange - but was told by several providers that the minimum subscription time was 2 years.

After consulting the national authority for electronic communications and finding out about his rights, Eric contacted the providers again and was able to get a subscription for 1 year only.

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