20. March 2013
One area the Federal Ministry of Justice’s current working draft implementing the EU’s directive on consumer rights addresses is pricing transparency. When receiving online purchase orders, traders will be required to clearly state any fees charged for choosing particular payment methods. This means consumers will be protected from hidden charges.
Consumers are often tempted by good online deals, only to find that by the time they have paid the fee for choosing a certain payment method, such as by credit card or by bank transfer, the price has increased to the original level. Under the new consumer protection legislation, such hidden pricing techniques will be restricted.
Contractual provisions requiring fees to be paid for choosing particular methods of payment will be void if the fee exceeds the costs the trader actually incurs for providing the service.
Furthermore, default contractual provisions concerning additional services, such as insurance or postage, will no longer automatically be part of an agreed contract. A consumer wishing to order additional services will need to expressly request them. In practice, this will mean that pre-ticked check boxes will be used less frequently and consumers will have much better control over the additional services they receive.
The working draft also makes special provision for social services, health services and residential leases. Although regulation of these services is permitted under the EU’s directive, legal fragmentation will occur on an EU level as certain contracts are excluded from the provisions. As a result, the creation of an EU-wide online shop is unlikely to be realised.
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