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IMRG campaigns against 'unfair' changes to EU consumer legislation

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The UK online retail’s trade association has spoken out against proposed changes to new consumer rights legislation currently going through the European parliament.

The IMRG, the trade body of the UK's ecommerce industry, is opposing the introduction of amendments to the Consumer Rights Directive, currently going through the European Parliament, which won the backing of MEPs last week.

The European Parliament says the new EU legislation should cover almost all sales, whether made in a shop, by phone, by post or online. It will update existing rules to take account of growth in internet sales and provide better protection for online shoppers.

Measures included in the legislation, which if passed will apply whether a transaction is made in a shop, on the phone, online or by mail order, include a 14-day window in which consumers across the EU can change their mind about the transaction and a legal responsibility for sellers to deliver goods within 30 days.

However the IMRG argues that new amendments, approved by the Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee (IMCO) in draft form last week, will oblige retailers to sell into any European Union member country, and also make them liable for the cost of returning some products. Both, it says, put an unfair burden on retailers.

During consultation on the legislation and its amendments the IMRG submitted a letter setting out its objections and signed by 379 figures from across the UK ecommerce industry.

Andrew McClelland, director of operations at IMRG, said: “Some of these amendments will have a terrible effect on the growth of e-commerce, an industry that has continued to grow throughout the economic downturn, offering huge potential for job creation and getting economies moving again.

“The internet can provide real social and environmental benefits, which is why we are supportive of the CRD in general. However, forcing retailers to sell into markets they have no understanding of will prevent this growth and limit the benefit to consumers. Also, making retailers pay for the return of a product they have changed their mind about is akin to a high street shop reimbursing a customer for their petrol and parking; it simply would not happen.”

The legislation will be the subject of negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers before it becomes law and IMRG says it is optimistic that amendments to the CRD can be reworked during those talks.

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