Demystifying online sales: How to make the most of the European market

Despite this, the majority of businesses established in the EU won’t ship goods to another country. 

The European Directive on electronic commerce in the internal market, adopted on 8 June 2000, coordinates national laws in order to remove barriers to free movement of goods and services within the EU. Common guiding principles have been established. 

European online revenue of goods and services reached €311.6 billion in 2012.
An ambitious action plan presented by the European Commission aims to double the volume of e-commerce in Europe by 2015. 

Unjustified discrimination based on nationality or the place of residence at the time of purchase should disappear. In future, online merchants might no longer have the choice whether or not to ship the goods to another EU country. With this in mind, businesses should consider taking the plunge sooner than later. 

Here are the basic rules set up by EU regulations to make the most of the European market — a market of 503 million inhabitants — the world’s third largest population. 

1) General obligations 

The Directive on e-commerce requires that a website makes available to the online visitor, the following information regarding the service provider, in a form and manner which is easily, directly and permanently accessible: 

  • Name i.e. company name; 
  • address at which the service provider is established; 
  • contact details including his electronic mail address; 
  • company number and registry where the company is registered; 
  • VAT number.
Prices must be indicated clearly and unambiguously and, in particular, indicate whether they are inclusive of tax and delivery costs. 

2 ) The steps to follow to conclude the contract 

When proposing goods or services online, the website must clearly mention, in the language of the target country, the applicable contractual conditions. These conditions must be accepted by the client.

It is necessary that these terms and conditions are displayed before the conclusion of the contract. The layout method of the site is paramount. 

The online merchant must indicate “the different technical steps to follow to conclude the contract”. Is the contract concluded when the client sends a form? Or after confirmation by the merchant? In the last case, the consumer may withdraw his order before receiving such confirmation. 

In addition, the client must also be informed as whether the contract will be stored or accessible later. The merchant must also mention on its website any codes of conduct applicable to the merchant’s activity. 

For any distance contract, consumers will have a period of at least seven working days in which to withdraw from the contract without penalty and without giving any reason.

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. Acceptance of the goods generally occurs after the expiry of the cooling-off period. 

The merchant must send a confirmation email immediately after receiving the order. 

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