A German court has ruled that online retailers must refund outward postage when customers return goods under their right to cancel. The case involved German retailer Heinrich Heine, who argued that German law said they did not have to refund their €4.95 delivery fee to customers who returned goods. The court ruled that if German law does make such a stipulation, then it is in conflict with European law and will have to be changed.
The European Distance Selling Directive says that “the supplier shall be obliged to reimburse the sums paid by the consumer free of charge. The only charge that may be made to the consumer because of the exercise of his right of withdrawal is the direct cost of returning the goods”. Under the Directive, customers have seven days from receipt of goods to withdraw from the contract and return their order.
In the UK, the Directive has been enacted as The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000, which says:
14.1 On the cancellation of a contract under regulation 10, the supplier shall reimburse any sum paid by or on behalf of the consumer under or in relation to the contract to the person by whom it was made free of any charge, less any charge made in accordance with paragraph (5).
This is further clarified in the OFT’s leaflet on the subject
3.48 The DSRs require you to refund any money paid by or on behalf of the consumer in relation to the contract to the person who made the payment. This means the full price of the goods, or deposit or prepayment made, including the cost of delivery. The essence of distance selling is that consumers buy from home and receive goods at home. In these circumstances, almost every case of home shopping will involve delivery of the goods ordered and so delivery forms an essential part of the contract. [emphasis theirs]
We’ll be taking a more extensive look at the rules and good practice regarding returned goods next month, so if you have questions/observations, please do leave us a comment.