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Online shoppers to gain greater protection under EU law

Consumers are to gain greater protection when purchasing goods on the internet after new measures were approved by the EU.

The introduction of a 14 day cooling-off period will give online shoppers longer to return goods. In many countries internet shoppers must currently return unwanted items within seven working days.

Under the rules, traders must also ensure that they pass on only the actual cost of charges to people paying by credit or debit card, rather than any surcharge.

In addition, there will be an end to customer-service phone lines being charged at a premium rate.

The plans are still subject to negotiation and it is thought that governments will be given up to two years to implement the changes.

‘We wanted to regulate mainly off-premises and distance contracts, such as online trading, as this is where the most cross-border sales take place,’ commented the EU parliamentary chief negotiator, Andreas Schwab.

‘We have reached a well-balanced deal which meets both calls from consumers and business interests.’

Meanwhile Richard Lloyd, executive director of the UK consumers' association Which?, said: ‘Work to improve consumer rights must not stop with this directive.

‘We would now like to see an EU-wide dispute resolution service put in place to protect individuals making cross-border purchases, as well as a mechanism to enable collective redress.’