A new proposal could mean sellers in Europe would have to accept returns for up to 2 years. In Wednesday's Newsflash
, we explain how the European Commission wants to tighten up what is now a 2-year guarantee on purchases.
The proposal is designed to unify contract laws across countries in the European Union to make it simpler and more compelling for shoppers and merchants to buy and sell outside their national borders. "Only 12 % of EU retailers sell online across borders, and only 15% of EU consumers buy online across borders," the European Commission stated.
The Commission makes a good argument for making consistent rules across member countries. Imagine how a consumer in New England would feel if they weren't sure of basic consumer protections when buying from a merchant located in Arkansas.
However, the proposal
would in effect turn the current 2-year guarantee for faulty items into a 2-year returns policy by tightening it up, including eliminating the requirement that consumers prove that a defect existed at the time of delivery:
"Reversal of the burden of proof: For instance, if an Italian consumer discovers today that a product he/she purchased online more than 6 months ago is defective and asks the seller to repair or replace it, he/she may be asked to prove that this defect existed at the time of delivery. Under the proposed new rules, throughout the two-year guarantee period, the consumer will be able to ask for a remedy without having to prove that the defect existed at the time of delivery."
Human nature being what it is, many shoppers would have no hesitation in wearing a piece of clothing for a year and then returning it citing a "defect," for example.
If the proposed rules go into effect, it could actually restrict the number of companies willing to sell across borders as well as harm merchants selling domestically. That's especially true with certain categories of goods - a one-size-fits-all policy doesn't work when it comes to warranties or returns.
There's another provision in the proposal that could have big consequences for merchants: "For second-hand goods purchased online, consumers will now have the possibility to exercise their rights within a two-year period, as is the case with new goods, instead of the one-year period that currently applies in some Member States."
And note that small businesses (SMEs) would not be exempted from the proposed requirements.
Let us know what you think.