Page last updated at 14:02 GMT, Wednesday, 8 October 2008 15:02 UK

EU to expand e-shoppers' rights

By Oana Lungescu
BBC News, Brussels

Buy button on website (file pic)
The commission found big price discrepancies across the EU

The European Commission has unveiled proposals to give more rights to consumers shopping online across the borders of the 27-nation EU.

The proposals aim to boost online shopping in Europe to allow people to take advantage of cheaper prices during the economic crisis.

The commission is asking EU governments to give consumers a two-week cooling-off period to back out of a sale.

Consumers could also get the right to a refund for delayed deliveries.

One-third of the EU's population, that is, 150 million people, shop online. But only 30 million of them do it cross-border.

The new rules are meant to boost confidence in the sector and give consumers peace of mind when looking for bargains abroad.

With household budgets under strain, said the EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, it has never been more important for consumers to shop around to get the best value.

The commission proposals include a cooling-off period of 14 days for shoppers. In about half of the EU's 27 countries, they only have seven days to change their mind after a purchase.

There are also stronger guarantees of repairs, replacements and refunds for faulty or delayed goods, and clearer information on price and any additional charges.

Mrs Kuneva said there were striking price differences across Europe - and that did not serve consumers.

For instance, a camera sold by the same company cost $150 (110 euros; 86) more if bought online in Finland, rather than in Britain.

The commission is hoping the proposals will be approved by EU governments and the European Parliament next year, but the amount of changes they imply in national consumer rules could lead to delays.

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