Shopping online

Our purpose is to assist consumers when making cross-border purchases within the EEA

In can be fun and convenient to buy things over the Internet. The selection of products might be better than in the stores at home and the price might also be better. However there are several things to consider when shopping on-line.

IS EVERYTHING INCLUDED IN THE PRICE?

The thing to consider here is that when a price is stated on traders’ websites in many cases only the initial price is shown. Then the cost of packing and delivery is added and then (at least when items are being imported to Iceland) customs and taxes. Plus, the postal service in Iceland charges a fee for handling the package.  So the final cost might quite easily be double the initial price! So price comparison isn’t all that easy! 

Another thing to keep in mind is that many traders don’t send their products to all countries. Web traders should state very clearly which countries they deliver to. Many traders only deliver within their own country so this would save consumers a lot of time. Also the traders should state clearly what the delivery cost, packaging cost and other fees are. These are essential information when comparing prices.

LEGAL RIGHTS WHEN SHOPPING ON-LINE

The law on door-to-door sales and distance contracts applies to on-line shopping. This Icelandic law is an implementation of the EU directive on distance selling. It is the Consumer Rights Division of the Consumer Agency that enforces the law on door-to-door sales and distance contracts.

In addition other laws can apply to the purchase, for example when buying consumer goods on-line the consumer is also protected by the Sale of Goods and Associated Guarantees Directive 99/44/EC. This directive has been implemented in all EU-states as well as Norway and Iceland. See further information about goods and services.

Normally when buying a product you don´t have the right to return it unless there is something wrong with it. You cannot return trousers you bought because you don’t like the colour, or a sofa you bought because you don´t think it fits in with the rest of your furniture.

However when buying a product on-line (door-to-door or distance contract) you can return the product without giving any specific reason for doing so. If you have bought a product from a trader within the European Economic Area (EEA) you can cancel the purchase within 7 weekdays from delivery and sometimes the time limit can be even longer. For example if you buy a product online from an Icelandic trader you have the right to cancel the purchase within 14 days from delivery. On the other hand in the event of cancellation the consumer often has to return the product at his own expense. However this withdrawal right does not apply in cases of: 

  1. Contracts for services if the consumer has consented to the provision of the services before the passing of the deadline to withdraw from the contract
  2. Contracts on the purchase of video tapes, audio recordings or software if the consumer has broken the vendor's seal.
  3. Distance contracts for goods which are made to the consumer's own specifications or adapted by other means to his personal needs, or which by reason of their nature will deteriorate or expire before the deadline.
  4. Distance contracts on participation in lotteries or other legal games.

See also Can I return a product bought on-line?  So the right of withdrawal is not in place when booking hotels, tickets, renting a car etc, see Can I cancel my hotel room? Furthermore the law does not apply to contracts that are worth less than 4000 ISK (approx. 27 EUR in July 2012).

As the Icelandic law is an implementation of an EU directive the rules are quite similar throughout the EEA. If you think that your rights have somehow been violated while making a cross-border on-line purchase please contact your ECC-Centre. Please keep in mind though that the ECC only assist consumers with regards to their cross-border transactions, so for instance if Icelandic consumers are having disputes with Icelandic traders they should contact the Consumers’ Association (www.ns.is) instead of the ECC.

Also please keep in mind that the law on door-to-door sales and distance contracts only applies to consumer purchases. So if the trader is a private individual (for instance when buying through Facebook or chat rooms) and not a professional these rights do not apply.

SAFE INTERNET SHOPPING
Most traders are honest and in compliance with the law. So most consumers who shop on-line do so without any trouble. However there are exceptions so it is best to be careful. According to the Icelandic law on door-to-door sales and distance contracts the consumer should for example be supplied with the following information before a contract is made:
The consumer is entitled to the following information within a reasonable time before a contract covered by this Act is made:

  1. The name and address of the vendor.
  2. The principal characteristics of the goods or services covered by the contract.
  3. The price of the goods or services, including all public levies, as well as the cost of delivery, if applicable.
  4. Arrangements for payment, delivery and time of delivery.
  5. Right to withdraw from the contract, subject to the provisions of Article 10.
  6. The cost of using a means of distance communication which is calculated in another manner than as a basic rate.
  7. The period of validity of the offer and the offer price.
  8. The minimum duration of the contract.

The information shall be clear and comprehensible and accessible to the consumer. … The consumer shall be provided with written confirmation, or, in the case of distance sales, confirmation by another durable medium available and accessible to the consumer, of the information listed in Items 1-6.
So if this information is not supplied there might be cause for concern. If the trader for instance neither supplies you with his name nor address how are you going to contact him or send the product back should something go wrong?

It is a good rule to “google” the trader before entering a contract. Find out what other consumers say about him, if there have been complaints etcetera. Consumers who have been victims of scams usually tell others about it in internet chat rooms, on booking sites and so on. Also you can ask Howard, the shopping assistant.

When paying for the product please handle credit card information with care. Do not provide credit card information before you have ordered the product you intend to buy. You should not pay by transfer to the trader’s account or by using money transfer services. You should make sure that the trader has a secure site before you pay directly with a credit card. A little yellow lock should appear at the edge of the browser, which is a so-called SSL-secure. But beware of fakes; if you click on the lock the website’s security certificate should appear. Also it is good to know that secure sites start with https instead of http. See also our brochure on e-commerce.

GOLDEN RULES FOR ON-LINE SHOPPING

   Check different traders and consumer experience
   Find out who is selling the product - are all contact details in place?
   Read the trader’s terms of agreement - will there be any surprises?
   Check which payment methods are available - are they safe? 
   Don’t provide more personal information than necessary
   Check what the full price is and delivery time

Further reading:

     ECC-Iceland’s brochure: Advice on e-commerce 
     News, articles and reports  
     Report: Online Cross-border Mystery Shopping
     Report: The European Online Marketplace  2008-2009
     Report: The European Online Marketplace 2010-2011
     

See also Frequently asked questions

Useful info from the ECC-Net website 
DG SANCO’s advise on e-commerce