Have you signed an offer for a kitchen under the impression it was without any obligations and because the special discount was only valid that day? And did you then face high cancellation costs because you decided not to purchase the kitchen after all? Has the salesperson sent you from pillar to post, when you had a warranty issue? ConsuWijzer received considerably more indications about kitchens in 2014 than it did in 2013. ConsuWijzer is the consumer information portal of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM).
In 2014, ConsuWijzer received a total of 64,000 indications from consumers. Based on these indications, ACM carried out several short, rapid interventions aimed at solving urgent problems next to its regular oversight efforts.
Rights when purchasing kitchens
Consumers that purchase kitchens in shops indicate they sometimes feel pressured to say ‘yes.’ After all, the salesperson developed the design of the kitchen, and offered a special discount that is only valid if the kitchen is purchased immediately. However, consumers do not always realize that, if you sign an offer in a store, it actually means you accept the offer. You thus sign an agreement that has no cooling-off period (or grace period). If you do change your mind after the purchase, most consumers are faced with substantial cancellation costs, which can be as high as 30 percent of the purchase amount. And since this is about kitchens, such costs can be substantial. In addition, it is critical not to make any rash decisions, since these are the kinds of purchases you do not make frequently.
The indications also reveal that consumers are actively approached by kitchen salespeople at trade shows. If you sign an agreement at a trade show, you are entitled to a 14-day cooling-off period as a result of the new consumer protection rules. When purchasing products outside the retailer’s premises, you are allowed to cancel your purchase within the cooling-off period at no cost and without having to give any reasons.
Consumers that are shopping around for kitchens should realize that salespeople try to persuade consumers to sign offers. There is obviously nothing wrong with that as long as everyone knows what they are doing. After all, signing an offer is not free of obligations. When purchasing kitchens, negotiating about the price is often possible. ConsuWijzer therefore advises consumers to take their time when purchasing kitchens. On ConsuWijzer.nl, consumers are able to find more tips about what to keep in mind when purchasing kitchens.
- Purchasing kitchens (in Dutch)
ConsuWijzer also received indications about kitchen salespeople that sent consumers from pillar to post when they wished to exercised their warranty rights. Like with any other product, kitchens come with a warranty. If there are any problems with the kitchen (either with the appliances or with the kitchen itself), the salesperson is the point of contact for consumers.
Indications lead to enforcement actions
The indications ConsuWijzer receives are critical to ACM’s enforcement efforts. Based on indications filed with ConsuWijzer, ACM in 2014 carried out several short, rapid interventions aimed at solving urgent problems. ACM has thus prevented more consumers from getting harmed.
In one of these cases, ACM took action against a company that offered via the Internet free samples of various products. ACM made sure that this company explicitly asked consumers for permission to be sent paid follow-up shipments. ACM also ensured that the purchasing option was turned off on a website that sold e-cigarettes, but which was not clear about its offers.
Furthermore, ACM approached online retailers that did not comply with the rules. An online bike shop wrongfully restricted the right to the cooling-off period. The information on its website has already been adjusted. Also, ACM sat down with an online shop that sold phone chargers, but that delivered the purchases late or not at all, even though consumers did pay for their orders. This online shop has ceased operations. Consumers can find the Online Shop Scan on ConsuWijzer if they wish to check the trustworthiness of an online store.
When recruiting subscribers in the street, several newspapers failed to apply the new consumer protection rules correctly. ACM has pointed this out to the publishing company. With the new consumer protection rules, consumers now have a 14-day cooling-off period if they take out a subscription to a newspaper or magazine in the street, over the phone, or online.
ConsuWijzer in 2014
In 2014, the top three categories of indications that ConsuWijzer received concerned:
- Questions about warranty rights in case of faulty products/services.
- Customer-recruitment methods and advertisements
- Questions about bills and payments.
Warranty rights are back at number one. It turns out that consumers often do not know what their rights are. That is why ConsuWijzer has made an informational video in which the most important consumer rights concerning warranty are explained. On the website of ConsuWijzer, consumers are able to find a lot of information and sample letters.
The industries about which consumers had the most questions and complaints in 2014 were:
- Telecom companies
- Energy companies
- Retail non-food (electronics and domestic appliances)
Most telecom-related and energy-related questions were about unclear bills. The sales channel about which ConsuWijzer received the most indications was, like in 2013, the Internet, followed by brick-and-mortar shops, and telemarketing.