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FAQs - Shopping


These questions were put to and answered by a European consumer advice service. Do you have questions of your own? Contact your local European Consumer Centre.

Returns and cancellations

  • Five weeks ago I ordered an out-of-print book online. It was bought for my husband's birthday, which has passed without my receiving the order. What can I do?

    If a product you order is not delivered within 30 days, you can cancel the order. If you have already paid, the seller must give you a refund within 30 days.

  • I ordered a CD that I never received. I contacted the seller, who says it is the postal service that is responsible, not him. Is he right?  

    NO - The seller is responsible for the delivery of your purchase. It is the seller who must contact the delivery service and prove that the product was delivered. If the seller cannot prove this, they must send you the product again or give you a refund.

Repairs, replacements, refunds

  • Goods that I bought online weren't delivered/arrived damaged, what can I do?

    When you shop online, you have the same rights as when you buy in a shop:

    • if you buy goods that are of unsatisfactory quality, you may be entitled to have them repaired, replaced, refunded or reduced in price - depending on the circumstances.
    • any information about goods or services should be accurate and not misleading. If you have been given false or misleading information, you may be entitled to a refund.

    Check the terms and conditions and the returns policy of the seller's website. Contact them to explain the problem and ask for a solution. If you don't get a satisfactory response and the seller is based in the EU, you can contact the European consumer centre in your home country.

  • I bought a guitar from an online shop, but it arrived broken. The seller doesn't want to send me a new guitar or give me a refund, since he says the damage is not his fault but the shipping company's. Is he right?

    NO - The seller is responsible for the shipping of your purchase. The seller must repair or replace your guitar or give you a refund.

    When you have goods delivered, it is always a good idea to check the condition of your purchases in the presence of the delivery person, so that it cannot be claimed that the damage was done after the article was in your possession.

  • I ordered a CD that I never received. I contacted the seller, who says it's the postal service that's responsible, not him. Is he right?  

    NO - The seller is responsible for the delivery of your purchase. It is the seller who must contact the delivery service and prove that the product was delivered. If the seller cannot prove this, they must send you the product again or give you a refund.

  • The printer I bought four weeks ago on a website has just broken down. What can I do?

    You have the same consumer rights as you would had you bought it in a shop, i.e. a two-year guarantee for new goods.

    If your printer broke down within six months of delivery, contact the seller. He must repair or replace your printer or give you a refund if repairs or replacement are impossible. After six months, you must prove that you did not cause the machine to break down, which can be difficult.

Auction sites

  • I bought a coffee-maker on an online auction but it doesn't work. What can I do?

    When you buy from a private individual, you have neither the right to cancel your purchase after delivery nor the legal guarantees you have when buying from a professional seller.

    In this case, all you can rely on is the information you had at the time of purchase. If the product you bought is not as described, you can send it back and ask for a refund.

    Don't hesitate to ask private sellers detailed questions in order to avoid unpleasant surprises!

  • What are my rights when I buy goods from an online auction site?

    Auction sites differ from online stores in a number of key ways:

    When you buy something at an internet auction, you are not necessarily protected by distance selling legislation. Auctions are specifically excluded from these EU laws, although some countries have extended the distance selling legislation to include internet auctions.

    If you are purchasing goods from a private individual rather than a company, as is often the case for online auctions, the transaction is not covered by consumer legislation. A 'consumer' transaction involves a private individual buying goods or services from a seller acting in the course of his business, trade or profession, as opposed to two individuals acting in a private capacity.

    However, all reputable online auction sites offer buyers some degree of protection, plus plenty of advice about safe shopping on their site.

Safety

  • An online seller is asking me for a lot of personal details. Should I be concerned?  

    In order to buy things online, you must give the seller certain personal details (usually your name, address and bank details). However, the website must state to what degree your private data will be protected.

    The website must give you the option to refuse data collection and say that you do not want your contact details used for any other purpose than the transaction in question. In practice, this is usually done by ticking a box on the order form.

  • I want to buy a washing machine from a German website. I can't find the seller’s contact details anywhere on the site. Is this normal?

    NO - By law the seller must give basic information on their website so that you can contact them in case of problems. This includes the name of the company, its registration number, physical location (not simply a P.O. box), email address and phone number.

Opening a bank account

  • While surfing on the web, I found an offer for current accounts with a bank in France. What are the advantages of opening a current account in another EU country? What are the risks?

    As an EU resident, you can buy products and services from anywhere in the EU. However, banks are free to decide if they will give you a bank account.

    You should pay close attention to what having a bank account abroad will mean for you in practice. For example, some employers may insist that you have a local bank account into which they can pay your salary. Or the French bank you are interested in may insist that you have a local address.

    You may need to come to the bank in person to open a bank account, in order to prove your identity. Some common bank transactions may take longer if your account is based abroad, and it may be more difficult for you to file a complaint.

Day-to-day banking

  • How much will I be charged if I transfer money from my account to an account in another EU country?

    You cannot be charged more for transferring money to an account in another EU country than you would be for a transfer between two accounts in your own country.

    Charges for different payments do vary between institutions. The only legal requirement is that the charge for a transfer to another EU country must not be more than the domestic charge for the same type of transfer (provided the amount transferred is less than 50 000 euros).

  • I live in Belgium and want to buy a washing machine from a German seller. Will I have to pay bank charges if I pay by bank transfer?

    For an amount less than 50 000 euros, an international bank transfer in euros within the EU will not cost you more than a transfer between two bank accounts in the same country.

    Your bank transfer to the German seller will therefore not cost you any more than if you were making the payment to a bank account in Belgium. Make sure you give your bank the BIC and IBAN codes for the seller's bank account. You might have to pay extra charges if you do not.

  • I withdrew 100 pounds from an ATM in the United Kingdom while on holiday there. My latest bank statement shows that I was charged for that withdrawal. Is that legal?

    YES - If you withdraw a currency other than euros, the banks involved in the transaction may charge you.

    When you withdraw euros in another EU country, the bank cannot charge more than it would if you were making these transactions in your own country.

  • My company's private pension scheme is operated by a pension fund in another EU country. Will my retirement benefits be protected?

    YES - Companies can use the advantages of the EU single market to set up pension funds in another EU country. This could lead to cost savings for your company and potentially higher retirement benefits for you.

    Pension funds, whether located in your country or in another EU country, have to follow strict prudential rules to ensure a high degree of security. EU investment rules, for example, require pension funds to invest your money in your best interest.

  • What charges will I pay when I use an ATM abroad?

    If you have a bank account denominated in euros and use an ATM to take out euros in another EU country, you will not pay any more than you would to take out money in your home country.

    If you take out non-euro currency (Danish kroner, British pounds, etc.) from an ATM, you will have to pay extra charges.

Credits, loans and mortgages

  • My wife and I want to buy a house in Belgium, where her work is based.  However, her bank won't consider my salary in assessing our mortgage application (my job is based in France).  Isn't that a case of illegal discrimination?

    Banks in the EU will make a commercial decision on whether or not to accept your mortgage application, on the basis of the risk profile of the proposed loan.

    Banks may not discriminate against any EU citizens on grounds of nationality.  However, your country of residence, source or income or the location of the property to be mortgaged can often make it difficult to obtain a mortgage if they are not all in the same country.

Insurance

  • I bought title insurance when I bought a house abroad. In my home country, title insurance covers legal costs in the event of problems with recognition of ownership. The insurance contract of my new house does not contain any specific terms on legal expenses – are they included?

    NOT NECESSARILY - In many EU countries, title insurance and legal-expenses insurance are considered separate. You may need to take out separate insurance to cover legal expenses.

Help and advice

Help and advice

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