Advies resolutie herroepingsrecht
Lees hieronder het advies omtrent het voorstel van resolutie voor een duurzaam en evenwichtig herroepingsrecht
BeCommerce as an association of the e-commerce sector in Belgium would like to give its views on the parliamentary proposal for a resolution on the evolution towards a sustainable and balanced right of withdrawal in the context of e-commerce which is currently being discussed in the Federal Parliamentary Commission for Economy, Consumer Protection and Digital Agenda.
- A European framework
The right of withdrawal is an essential right defined in the Code of Economic Law and allows the consumer to return purchased products within fourteen days. This right was created to protect consumers. The right of withdrawal also creates confidence in online trade. Therefore, it is our opinion that in no way should an abolition of the right of withdrawal be an issue or should new rules make the right of withdrawal de facto impossible.
It is our opinion that national adjustments to the legislation on the right of withdrawal are not possible. Changes to such essential legislation must be made at European level. Directive 2011/83/EU on consumer rights has harmonised the right of withdrawal in the European market. This directive aimed at maximum harmonisation of the right of withdrawal, as a result of which changes must always originate at the European level.
At European level, consumer law was recently modernised under the New Deal for Consumers. In this, there was never any question of abolishing the 'free' right of withdrawal, nor were any proposals to tighten it.
- The impact of the right of withdrawal
Article VI.51 §1 (2) of the Economic Law Code states that the consumer shall bear the direct costs of returning the goods, unless the company agrees to bear such costs or the company has failed to inform the consumer of this.
Consequently, we believe that the existing right of withdrawal already offers sufficient possibilities to companies to develop their own return policy within the legal framework. The self-determination of companies must be respected. It is up to the company to decide whether to offer free returns or to charge the costs to the consumer. Free returns are very often an important part of the business model of different web shops to position themselves in the market.
We believe that there are several other possibilities to address the ecological impact and abuses of the right of withdrawal. Of course, we understand that abuses of the right of withdrawal must be tackled in order to protect businesses. Not every consumer uses the right of withdrawal in good faith. When a business chooses to offer a free return policy, it makes itself more vulnerable to abuse of the right of withdrawal.
The e-commerce market also sees these problems and takes initiatives itself. We see an evolution in the business field itself towards a more sustainable way of working when it fits within the business model. A recent example from the fashion sector is Zara, which now charges return costs for Belgium, but allows free returns in the shop.
In addition, we also see in the fashion sector that abuses are tackled by, for example, refusing to return clothes when labels have already been removed from them. These labels are made bigger in order to prevent abuse.
Projects are also launched in our neighbouring countries. In the Netherlands (Thuiswinkel), for example, the return vignette was introduced by the sector itself. The return vignette is a label or sticker that is placed in a conspicuous place on the goods and changes colour when it is removed. When the vignette is removed, a reduction in value will be applied and the customer will not receive a full refund. Thus we return to the original meaning of the right of withdrawal: the right to try on the product or to evaluate it once delivered -and to withdraw your purchase- due to the impossibility of doing so at the time of the purchase.
- The approach to the right of withdrawal
Limiting the number of returns can be achieved in various ways without legally restricting the company in whether or not to offer free returns.
This goes hand in hand with new technologies and innovations. The rationale for the right of withdrawal is found in the fact that the consumer does not have the possibility to check the characteristics and functioning of the goods at the time of purchase. If technologies can provide the consumer with a better picture of the good, returns will also decrease. Digital fitting rooms, 3D avatars, clear size charts are all examples of initiatives that can be taken.
In addition, a switch to sustainable logistics is important. Drop-off points such as in local outlets or lockers where consumers can drop off their goods can address the ecological impact just as well.
We conclude that abolishing the possibility of offering free returns is too far-reaching a restriction on the company's right of self-determination. A European approach is always the benchmark in consumer law. Addressing abuses and the ecological impact of the right of withdrawal is indeed an important issue. We believe the sector has the insights to tackle these issues. New nuances in companies' return policies, new technologies and more sustainable logistics will certainly have a positive impact.