The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed fines on five online fashion stores. These stores failed to inform consumers correctly on their websites about the rules regarding order cancellations (right of withdrawal). As a result, consumers did not know what their rights were, such as their right to a full refund, including reimbursement of the shipping costs, in a timely manner. The fined online stores are: Bever, Coolcat, Kiesdejuistesportbh, Hipvoordeheb, and Shoebaloo. Furthermore, Bever and Coolcat did not, or not always, reimburse shipping costs. In total, the online stores were fined EUR 590,000. Henk Don, Member of the Board of ACM, explains: “Online stores must respect consumer rights if consumers cancel their orders within the withdrawal period. If online stores fail to do so, they are violating the basic rules for online stores. Not only will this hurt consumer confidence online, but it will also harm the online stores that do comply with the rules. That is why ACM is taking enforcement actions.”
What are the rules?
On their websites, online stores must inform consumers in a clear manner about the rules regarding order cancellations. This specific information must be easy to find on their websites, for example, with a “return policy” link. It is not sufficient just to provide this information on the website in links to “general terms and conditions”, “customer service”, or “frequently asked questions.”
Consumers are entitled to full reimbursements for all costs they have paid for having their purchases delivered. This means that, when consumers completely cancel their deliveries, the shipping costs or any other additional costs must also be reimbursed.
Right of withdrawal
The right of withdrawal (order cancellations) cannot be restricted for reasons other than the statutory reasons. This means that consumers are allowed to return sale items and worn items.
Consumers are entitled to a withdrawal period (or cooling-off period) of 14 days starting the day after receipt. Online purchases must be returned within 14 days after cancelling them. Online stores must refund consumers within 14 days after receiving the cancellation request.
Payment methods for refunds
Online stores are only allowed to give a voucher as a refund if consumers have agreed to this, or if consumers had paid for the initial purchase with a voucher. This also applies to online purchases of sale items.
Fines on five online stores
In late-2014, ACM announced that it would be taking action against online fashion stores that fail to refund, either in a full or in a timely manner, consumers that cancel their purchases, and also against online fashion stores that failed to inform consumers correctly on their websites about order cancellations. The five online stores that have been fined came to light through, among other reasons, ConsuWijzer, ACM’s consumer information portal, and/or after investigations conducted by the Dutch Consumers' Association. These online stores did not properly inform consumers on their websites about the rules regarding the right of withdrawal (order cancellations). In addition, Bever and Coolcat failed to reimburse the shipping costs in some or all cases. In response, Coolcat has now reimbursed the shipping costs to customers who had sent back their products, and has also given them vouchers. Bever has reimbursed its customers and has also given them vouchers.
- Bever – fined EUR 198,000;
- Coolcat – fined EUR 220,000;
- Owner of Kiesdejuistesportbh.nl (now: bhsupport.nl) – fined EUR 50,000;
- Former owner of Hipvoordeheb – fined 50,000;
- Shoebaloo - fined EUR 72,000