Dutch consumers increasingly go online for purchasing goods and services. Most of the time, that goes well, but sometimes it does not. Every day, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) receives reports filed with its consumer information portal ACM ConsuWijzer by consumers concerning problems with online purchases. ACM takes action against online stores that cause a lot of problems because they do not comply with the rules. Consumers can prevent problems from occurring by checking the provider’s trustworthiness in advance. With the holiday season fast approaching, ACM thus launches its awareness campaign “Check before you buy” (in Dutch: “Eerst checken, dan bestellen”) on social media and radio.
Have you ordered a product online, and only checked afterwards whether or not the online store was trustworthy, for example, when the delivery took ages? Or when you received something entirely different from what you had ordered? Almost everyone has had such experiences. And with several online stores, it turns out it is quite difficult for consumers to contact the sellers and exercise their rights in such situations. Edwin van Houten, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, adds: “Making a purchase online is really different from a purchase made in a brick-and-mortar store. In most cases, you’ve paid in advance, and you can’t drop by the store if something is wrong with the product. And if you can’t reach the seller, you’ve lost your money. That is why it’s so important to check the online store first, before placing the order, especially if you don’t know the online store yet. Another way to prevent problems is by paying afterwards or with purchase protection, for example using a credit card.”
What problems do consumers encounter?
Consumer reports reveal that they mostly encounter the following problems:
- Never receiving the order;
- Receiving the order too late;
- Receiving products that are fake or of inferior quality.
In some cases, consumers unexpectedly received products from outside the Netherlands (through dropshipping), and returning the products turned out to be much more expensive than expected. In addition, consumers that returned their purchases during the cooling-off period did not always get their money back.
Most people do know that, prior to any purchase, they should check the trustworthiness of any online store they are unfamiliar with. Yet somehow, they sometimes fail to do so. In order to reduce the risk of having a problem with an online purchase, it helps to check the online store in advance, especially if it is an online store from which you have never ordered anything, and even if that online store is recommended on social media or their prices are slightly lower than those of competitors. Before making a purchase, consumers could check the following: reviews, payment options, contact information, and registration with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce. Our advice is: ‘Check before you buy’.
- Read the checklist on ACM ConsuWijzer (in Dutch)
- Watch the campaign videos (in Dutch)
- Download the campaign material (in Dutch)
ACM enforces compliance with consumer protection rules. Over 60,000 online stores are active in the Netherlands, and there is no end to online shopping among Dutch consumers. Starting an online store is relatively easy, requires little investment, and no certificates or diplomas are needed. ACM educates small business owners that wish to launch an online store about the relevant rules and regulations. In addition, ACM regularly takes action against online stores that violate those rules. If consumers check the trustworthiness of online stores in advance, they will be able to prevent problems, and, at the same time, shady providers will not stand a chance. ACM welcomes all complaints about untrustworthy online stores.
ACM ConsuWijzer is ACM’s consumer information portal. Consumers can ask questions about their rights for free. ACM ConsuWijzer can be contacted by email, social media or phone. We will explain what your rights are, and what you can do to solve the problem yourself.