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ACM: Online stores must inform consumers better about delivery times

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) urges online stores to inform customers better about their delivery times. The information about delivery times must be correct and up-to-date, especially so with the upcoming holiday season and the additional strain on delivery times as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Over the past few months, ACM has received many reports from consumers about online purchases that were not delivered on time (or were not even delivered at all), about online stores that failed to refund consumers in a timely manner (or even failed to do so at all), and that online stores were difficult to reach. It is the responsibility of the online stores to ensure that they meet the expectations of their customers. This means that they must state correctly what the expected delivery times are, and that their customer service is well organized and easy-to-reach.

Edwin van Houten, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, comments: “We have seen that online shopping has become even more popular as a result of the pandemic. We also see that online stores are very busy. And with the additional rush during the holiday season, we are thus calling on online stores to communicate the actual delivery times to their customers, and to make sure they can be easily reached. In this way, you can prevent your customers from getting disappointed.”

Reported problems about online stores

Over the past few months, consumers have reported the following problems about online stores:

  • The delivery times that are stated on the website do not correspond with the actual delivery times. Consumers often have to wait longer for their products than they expected. Online stores must ensure that the information on their website about delivery times is up-to-date, and they must closely monitor their stock levels. In addition, they must continue informing their customers after they have made their purchases, if these orders are delayed.
  • Online stores do not refund their customers in a timely manner when consumers cancel orders or return orders. Online stores must refund consumers within 14 days if the consumer changes their mind during the cooling-off period.
  • Consumers complained that online stores cannot be reached, or that they respond late to questions and complaints. Online stores must clearly communicate how they can be reached and at what times. In addition, they must respond within a reasonable period of time. For example, if an online store says it responds within 24 hours, it must do so.

Over the past few months, various online stores about which ACM received complaints have adjusted the information on their websites following an intervention by ACM, and they have taken measures to deal with the identified problems, for example, by adding more staff to their customer service.

A new peak period is approaching fast

November and December are the months of the year when the number of online purchases reaches a peak in the Netherlands (with two holidays that involve the exchange of gifts, one in early-December and the other in late-December, which is Christmas). This year’s peak is expected to be even higher because of the measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. ACM is calling on online stores to bear this in mind and to keep the information on their websites up-to-date, such as information about their stock levels and delivery times. If an online store is unable to deliver a certain product on time because it is so busy, it must clearly say so. The most important thing is that online stores keep the promises they make to consumers. ACM will keep a close watch on this by, for example, monitoring the reports that consumers file with ACM’s consumer information portal ACM ConsuWijzer. At ConsuWijzer, consumers can also find information about their rights regarding online shopping.