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Contracts concluded remotely and on business premises

Help and advice for consumers in Europe

The location where a contract is finalised holds significance in the Consumer Code, as it outlines obligations for the trader and rights for the consumer. Specifically, the purchasing of products online, through door-to-door sales, or in a physical store, the terms relate to contracts concluded remotely, contracts negotiated away from business premises, and contracts finalised on the business premises of the trader are governed by Directive 2011/83/EU on consumer rights, which has been incorporated into our Consumer Code.

  • A remote contract is defined as a contract for the sale of goods or services. The conclusion of the contract takes place by any useful means such as telephone, e-mail or brochure and, therefore, without the simultaneous physical presence of the trader and the consumer.
  • An off-premises contract means, on the other hand, any contract between the trader and the consumer that has been concluded:
  • with the simultaneous physical presence of the trader and the consumer in a place other than the trader’s premises or for which an offer was made by the consumer under the same circumstances;
  • on the premises of the trader or through any means of remote communication immediately after the consumer has been personally and individually approached in a place other than the trader’s premises;
  • during a promotional trip organised by the trader with the purpose of promoting or selling goods or services to the consumer.

However, the provisions of the Consumer Code relating to contracts concluded remotely and off-premises do not apply to certain types of contracts, such as, for example, those related to consumer credit, financial services, timeshare, social services and health care, gambling, contracts entered into with the intervention of a public official, tourist contracts, and, albeit with some exceptions, passenger transport contracts. Moreover, with respect to contracts that are negotiated off-premises, the provisions of the Consumer Code do not apply whenever the fee to be paid by the consumer does not exceed 50 euro.

  • A contract concluded on business premises means that a contract, precisely, concluded on business premises i.e., any immovable retail premises where the trader carries out his or her activity on a permanent basis or on a regular basis.

Under contracts concluded remotely and off-premises and those concluded on business premises, before the consumer is bound by them, the trader is required to provide the consumer with a range of clear and understandable information:

  • the identity of the trader, the address of the headquarters and contact details;
  • the essential characteristics of the good or service and its price including delivery charges and any taxes;
  • the terms of payment, delivery or performance of the contract;
  • the existence of the right of withdrawal, the conditions, terms and procedures for exercising it, and the withdrawal form;
  • the duration of the contract and, in the event of tacit renewal, the conditions for termination;
  • the cost to use the remote communication equipment, if it is not calculated in the basic rate;
  • a reminder of the existence of the legal guarantee of conformity for goods.

The trader must also ensure that the information is presented appropriately for the chosen medium. For instance, if the information is conveyed through a durable medium like paper, DVD, or email, it should be easily comprehensible.

With respect to contracts concluded remotely, moreover, the payment obligations must be immediately apparent to the consumer and must be apparent to the consumer before the consumer processes the order confirmation. Also, any optional additional payments must be expressly accepted by the consumer.

On the other hand, for contracts negotiated away from business premises, the trader is required to provide a copy of the signed contract always on a paper or durable medium.

Once a distance or away-from-business contract has been concluded, the trader is required to arrange for the delivery of the good or provision of the service without delay and, at the latest, within 30 days after the conclusion of the contract, unless a different deadline has been agreed upon. If delivery does not take place within the agreed time limit, the consumer grants the trader a reasonable additional period within which to make delivery. If the period also expires to no avail, the consumer may seek termination of the contract, a refund of the fee paid, and, in some cases, compensation for damages.

There is a right of withdrawal for contracts concluded remotely or negotiated away from business premises (Article 52 of the Consumer Code), intended as the consumer’s right to have second thoughts about the concluded contract and request withdrawal from it without having to provide any justification for it.

This right cannot be exercised in the case of in-store purchases unless the seller’s policy provides for such an option. The right of withdrawal must be exercised within 14 days starting from delivery if a product was purchased, or from the conclusion of the contract if the purchase is for a service. Although the regulations have set up forms with standard contents for communicating withdrawal from the contract, it is possible to exercise this right through a simple explicit statement to be sent to the trader. However, compliance with the 14-day deadline is essential, therefore, it is important to use communication channels that, if necessary, can document the date of sending. The trader is responsible for informing the consumer of the existence of the right of withdrawal; in the absence of such information, the deadline for exercising the right of withdrawal expires 12 months after the end of the initial withdrawal period. If, however, the trader provides this information within 12 months of the conclusion of the contract, the withdrawal period ends 14 days after the day the consumer receives the information. To accompany the right of withdrawal, the rule provides the consumer’s right to obtain a full refund of the fee paid.

The right of withdrawal is excluded for certain types of products and services, such as, for example, for alcoholic beverages, custom-made packaged goods or those that are likely to deteriorate or to expire quickly, for sealed goods that are not suitable to be returned for hygienic reasons and opened after delivery, and in the case of supply of audio-video recordings, newspapers, etc… Also, the right of withdrawal is excluded in the case of purchase through public auction, non-residential housing bookings, car rental and transportation contracts.

Once the consumer withdraws from the contract, he or she is required to return the goods received to the trader within 14 days of the notice of withdrawal and, at the same time, the trader must reimburse the consumer within the same period. The costs of the return are borne by the consumer, unless the trader has failed to inform the consumer of this or contractually undertakes to return the goods free of charge. For the refund, the trader is required to use the same method of payment used by the consumer, unless the consumer has agreed to another means of payment. Importantly, the trader may withhold the refund until receiving the returned product or the consumer provides proof of redelivery.

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