back to article Online retailers cannot deduct delivery fee when making refunds

Online shopping customers who send back goods straight away must not be charged for their delivery, Europe's top court has said. Consumers can be required to pay the cost of returning the goods but should be refunded every other cost, it said. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said that Germany should not have …


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  1. Wind Farmer

    A question

    What happens when the consumer wishes to return an item included in a purchase of several items (either different items, or a reduced quantity)? Is the delivery cost refunded in full, pro-rated, or something else?

  2. Anonymous Coward

    EU DSD is utter shit

    It allows any EU resident to effectively obtain goods 'on approval' and all the costs are borne by the retailer, even if the goods are damaged beyond repair before being returned. The EU directive, for example, permits me to buy a £4 Airfix model online with the £20 cost of super fast before 9am courier delivery added on, build it rather badly, paint it pink and then demand a refund of the whole lot, even if I don't return it. How can this be fair?

    UTTER SHIT - How did this law ever get passed?

    I suspect that the idiots at Brussels somehow thought that such a law would 'protect' consumers from 'con-artist' websites, when all it really does is increase costs for genuine retailers, pushing prices up. I have a pile of returned goods here which I can't sell because it's ruined by bastards returning it under the EU Directive. All the goods were brand spanking new when I sent them out, but they get sent back to me in shit condition and I can do fuck all with them. 100% loss on sale + cost of shipping.

    It's shit, shit, shit! Fuck those EU bastards!

    1. Havin_it

      S*** F*** B******s

      Suck it up, man. Every retailer has to bank on a certain level of costly bastardry from their customers, shoplifters, whatever applies to their particular business. Nobody likes it, but these cases are a vanishingly small minority for any business I've ever known.

      If people pulling this crap account for a big enough chunk of your profits that you're this worked-up about it, maybe it's time to move on and seek out a new market and/or new customer base.

      Forgive the hard-assery; don't get me wrong, I'm apt to have a good swear about it when it happens to me too. Have a pint.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Watch out for the flailing arms and spittle.

      Funniest UKIP type propaganda I've seen in a long time.

      I almost lost my caffinated product to my keyboard until I realised you were actually serious.

      The directive does not mean the customer is not liable for any damage to the goods.

      The case you quote would certainly be seen as deliberate and malicious damage and the customer could be, quite rightly, charged.

      This directive was agreed (and pushed for) by all the members of the EU (including the UK) in order to improve consumer confidence in online retailing. This was agreed by most of the interested parties to be one of the biggest problems for consumers (not seeing the goods before buying) and the solution a good compromise.

      The case that more interests me is what happens if the customer has to damage the packaging to get to the goods i.e. those god awful plastic welded transparent things. Any lawyers in the house?

    3. Anonymous Coward

      @EU DSD is utter shit

      "It allows any EU resident to effectively obtain goods 'on approval' and all the costs are borne by the retailer"

      Which if you actually read the ruling, you would know was complete bullshit.

      The cost of return is paid by the customer, which in theory should be exactly the same as costs for delivery. As such the risk is split 50/50 between the customer and retailer.

    4. Eddie Edwards
      Thumb Up


      I had no idea I could do that under the DSD.

      Thanks for pointing it out :)

    5. Arclight
      Paris Hilton

      Get a lawyer

      As far as I understood it,customers can only return said goods if they are in good/reasonable condition ie, not fecked up beyond repair.

      Paris, as I'm as confused as she is.

    6. Gordon Pryra

      @EU DSD Is utter shit.

      Typical Daily Mail response.

      Take a deep breath, think about things a little bit more.

      This law actually stops the scam online sales sites from (for example)

      Selling a wedding dress for £300 including p&p.

      Return the Wedding dress and get refunded £5

      The p&p was actually £295.

      There are already many laws in place that protect the seller from the "buy on aproval" aspect, if the packaging is damaged of the item is "work" then they can refuse to take it back.

      The guy who said he has a ton of goods in shit condition is either full of shit himself and trying to impress the forum weirdos or an idiot who accepted something damaged back

    7. Stuart Halliday

      The Law protects the Supplier too....

      Obviously you can't return opened or used goods and get a refund. The Law does protect the Supplier too.

      But it is amazing how some idiots do expect to buy a product on the Friday, use it over the weekend and then try to return it on the Monday after it has blatantly been used.

      Some don't even bother try to disguise it.

      We get goods returns with their wires hanging out of the box as the stupid customer couldn't get them back in.

      Then they moan and shout if we don't give them a refund.

    8. John Bailey

      Bendy Banana syndrome much?

      Do you really think this is new?

      How about all the "save the receipt" Christmas presents people get every year from relatives that can't be bothered to put some thought into the gift?

      It's as old as the retail business. The DSR just extended this to mail order. And a good thing too. And no.. You can't send the goods back in any condition and expect them to be refunded. Try it some time.

      Buy a pair of shoes that are uncomfortable, No DSR, no return.

      Buy a computer part that is not compatible, no DSR, you often had to pay a restocking fee, even though the item had been unpacked carefully, tested and repackaged.

      As far as returning goods this way.. Personally I have done it twice in the last ten years. Out of hundreds of satisfactory purchases. And I know many who use the internet for buying stuff regularly, know about this regulation, and don't abuse it. There will always be some who do, but this is true of just about any rule.

      Last time I returned something, it was quite heavy, so cost about half what I paid to send it back recorded delivery. Hardly an approval purchase. I was about £17 out of pocket for a thing that was not fit for my purpose. The seller however, had a courier account, so had a much lower delivery cost.

      1. frymaster

        20 quid delivery and 5 quid item

        the DSRs allow for express delivery NOT to be refunded.

        You basically charge for the item and p&p, then have a separate charge for express delivery.

        The item + standard p&p is refunded, the express delivery service is not (because it's a service)

        basically, as long as there's a cheaper delivery method that isn't taking the piss included in the price, the express delivery service is counted as a non-refundable service

  3. ChrisInAStrangeLand
    Thumb Down

    Bad news for Dell.

    I guess this means the end of BTO computers as well. A sizable fraction of consumers will order half a dozen units without research and send back the ones they don't like, at hundreds of euros cost to manufacturers.

    1. NightFox


      Aren't customer built items such as BTO computers exempt from this though?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. NightFox


        ^custom, not customer

  4. The First Dave Silver badge


    Correct me if I am wrong, but don't any returned goods need to be in saleable condition? ie as good as new?

  5. Anonymous Coward


    Sick and tired of retailers fleecing customers for "restocking fees" of 20-30% of the item's value, plus return delivery charges. One reason I turn down some retailers when they state the customer cannot do this or will pay for this or that, if returned.

  6. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    RE: EU DSD is utter shit

    No, you can't spoil stuff and then send it back. This only applies if the customer changes their mind and returns stuff in good condition - ie in a condition where it can be sold again.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Which TV?

    They say the best way to decide which TV to buy is compare them all side by side. I'll take a hint from ChrisInAStrangeLand's comment about BTO computers.

    Under the DSR I can order three TVs from different retailers online, try them out for a week and then cancel the contracts on the two I don't like, or all three for that matter. The retailers are obliged by EU and UK DSR laws to refund the monies I paid including delivery within 30 days even if I don't return the TVs. My right to cancel the contract is unconditional, meaning that the supplier is not able to impose any contractual terms contradicting those cancellation rights, even having to return the goods before making the refund. If I don't return the goods, the retailer 'may have a case against me', this is as far as the OFT guidance goes. You mark my words, Dominic Little will be tipping One Show viewers to do this before long.

    It's all one-side in favour of the consumer. Not only do online consumers now have the ability to use both the internet and retail shops to research goods much more comprehensively before ordering, they can now try them for a week free of charge before finally deciding whether to keep them - all at the expense of the retailer.

    It's not as if the majority of online purchases aren't funded by either credit/debit card or PayPal and those payment systems have more than adequate mechanisms to handle disputes between retailers and consumers if there is a genuine problem which cannot be resolved between the two parties. The unconditional right to cancel a contract is just too heavy handed.

    Interestingly, high street shops have been tightening their returns policies over the last few years in response to the growing attitude from consumers that they can always take something back if they don't like it (when in law they can't). Terms of Sale form part of the deal when buying goods. If you are the sort of person that does poor research and changes your mind, you buy from a retailer with a very flexible returns policy at slightly higher prices. If you are good at research and want keen prices, you won't mind buying from a retailer with a very restricted returns policy. Either way, UK consumers are well protected by existing legislation entirely separate from the DSR, and their card issuers.

    The DSR should either be radically overhauled to redress the balance or be abandoned.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Which TV? and @ angry guy at top

      Fair dos, I agree that certain questions relating to recouping costs of damaged items need to be clarified, especially in a recessionary environment - it would be good to have an agency a bit like 'Consumer Direct', i.e. 'Business Direct', which drafted low-cost procedures for businesses to deal with this kind of thing.

      That aside, I must disagree a little when you say the law has tipped too far in favour of the consumer. I feel you're both forgetting that the DSRs (which are getting on a bit now, and in reality can be traced back to the distant days when "ordering by phone" was the thing), have coincided with a boom in internet retailing. An activist pro-consumer regulatory culture has likely unleashed much of the demand which you enjoy, and reduced dispute costs to zero - indeed apportioned them across the entire central govt budget via small claims courts, citizens advice, and consumer direct - so you enjoy a subsidy, and an advantage over bricks and mortar. What rational person would buy from bricks and mortar when there is no cooling-off period as there is with DSRs?

      So you should offset in your assessment, many many additional sales, against every returned item (which must now be open box 'A' grade - or if not due care taken then partly recoupable-for via invoicing the customer post-refund - this is provided for in the DSRs), and remember the very existence of your businesses may be owed to those DSRs - offset the postage cost of returned items similarly, against the profits made through consumers who would not otherwise be confident.

      Remember there is a cost and risk to the consumer associated with parting with money while they try out the item - they could accidentally damage it and be liable for it.

      It just sounds like there are some serious problems establishing this liability where it legitimately exists, and I agree that's an area on which the DSRs falls down.

    2. Anonymous Hero

      @Which TV?

      No the distance selling regs are fine how they are. Your example is extreme and no single retailer is being hit with the restocking costs, but that's by the by.

      If I'm buying a high value item such as a TV online then of course I should have the right to return if I'm unhappy with the way it performs.

      Reviews and popping into Comet are not adequate means of making an informed decision for this type of purchase. Reviews are often filled with fanboi comments and the lighting and display shelf areas of most stores are often badly lit and the TV's badly configured.

      Also not everyone has access to a decent independent specialist retailer who has nicely set up auditioning rooms.

      Why not have the right to check to your satisfaction that the £1500 42" telly your parting your hard earned cash for is going to do the job?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Are you sure you can get away with it

      In the DSR

      "Restoration of goods by consumer after cancellation

      Where, at any time during the period of 21 days beginning with the day notice of

      cancellation was given, the consumer receives such a request as is mentioned in paragraph (4),

      and unreasonably refuses or unreasonably fails to comply with it, his duty to retain possession

      and take reasonable care of the goods shall continue until he delivers or sends the goods as

      mentioned in paragraph (5),"


      "Breach of a duty imposed by this regulation on a consumer is actionable as a breach of

      statutory duty."

      So they can take action. More likely for a high value goods, they will send someone round to collect it and charge you for it.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      @Which TV?

      "It's all one-side in favour of the consumer. Not only do online consumers now have the ability to use both the internet and retail shops to research goods much more comprehensively before ordering, they can now try them for a week free of charge before finally deciding whether to keep them - all at the expense of the retailer."

      Is complete BS, because the customer has to bear the cost of returning the item, so clearly it's not "all at the expense of the retailer"!

      This was made abundantly clear in the ruling, what a shame you didn't bother to read it!

    5. frymaster

      returned goods condition

      the customer has to take "reasonable care" of the items. The business is allowed to specify what that means, as long as it doesn't get in the way of evaluating the product

      (i.e. swimsuits etc. must have only been tried on top of a layer of clothes, or whatever)

      1. Steve Roper


        Er... how do you tell if a swimsuit has been tried on over clothes or not? Sniff the crotch?

  8. Anonymous Coward

    The DSR does go too far

    @Arclight, @Gordon Pryra, @The First Dave, @SImon Hobson

    The DSR grants an 'unconditional right to cancel' qualifying contracts which means there are no circumstances under which a retailer can exempt themselves from having to refund under the DSR. Contracts for perishable goods, goods made to order, sales of land, car rentals and business to business sales and a few other specific items are exempt.

    Read up on this. Read the guidance notes from OFT. Read the Acts.

    I've been to my LibDem MP about this, we used the Airfix model analogy to demonstrate how unfair the current laws are and the guy who deals with this in Westminster confirmed to my MP that it was correct. You only have to read the guidance notes to know this. The Westminster 'grey suit' described the DSR as 'over-empowering the consumer' but that as it was an EU directive there was little that could be done. I've got a whole load of correspondence here from the House of Commons on it. The OFT Guidance notes specifically detail the example of self-assembly goods and state that if dismantling them might damage them, then the customer need not disassemble them before returning. The DSR are intended to give online shoppers the opportunity to examine goods as they might do in a shop, but because of the way they have been implemented, they go way beyond this. So yes, they can break seals, tear open rigid plastic packaging, fit batteries, download songs to an MP3 player, install software on a laptop, whatever, and have full rights of return, no questions asked.

    The consumer does have a duty of care to look after the goods until they are returned, but the matter of whether or not goods have been appropriately cared for (or even returned) is not covered by the DSR, it merely states that the retailer may have a case against the consumer in the event that the retailer feels that due care had not been exercised. In any event, the refund MUST be issued within 30 days of notice to return to avoid breach of the regulations and the matter of due care will have to be settled in court at a later date. How practical is that for a £4 Airfix model, or any goods worth less than a few thousand pounds?

    I'm no Euro-sceptic or UKIP fascist, I just think the DSR is a pile of shit and needs either radically overhauling or scrapping. We've got plenty of consumer legislation already to deal with this more than adequately. Market forces will promote retailers with flexible return policies (if that's what people want) and demote those who are less accommodating, but common sense and fair play must prevail. The obvious failure of the DSR will become more apparent as consumers get wind of it and start taking the piss ever frequently.

  9. Matt Martin

    BTO computers are not excluded....

    provided that they are constructed from off the shelf parts. Anything that has been permanently customised such as iPod engraving is excluded.

  10. David Kelly 2

    Delivery is a service, not goods.

    No matter the consumer decides to return that which was ordered online, the original delivery of said item is a service which was fully and satisfactorily performed and as such should not be subject to a refund.

    If not, then next week the EU will decide one is due a refund of taxi fare used originally to get to a shop for which an item is being returned.

  11. Just Thinking

    Seems fair to me

    If a retailer expects me to buy something online which I can't look at in advance, they better be prepared to treat me reasonably if I don't like the thing when it turns up.

    They have saved the vast cost of running/staffing a chains of shops, so what is wrong with them having to cover delivery costs for returned items? They are flip sides of internet retail, and the pros outway the cons for the retailer.

    It isn't totally one sided, there is cost, hassle and risk for the purchaser. What if the goods get damaged/nicked while in your possession? What if the retailer goes bust? What if they refuse to refund you (even though they are legally bound to). I certainly wouldn't order 3 TV's with the intention of returning at least 2 of them, there is no absolute guarantee that I will actually be able to return them.

    Who is really going to order goods, demand a refund, then refuse to return them? A few might, but anyone with any common sense and self respect is going to realise that this will catch up with you eventually. You will end up in court, accused of an act of stupid dishonesty, without a shred of defence. Some people might shrug that off, but most of us value our reputation more than that.

  12. El Monskie

    There are exceptions to the right to cancel

    Re AC - I work in an area that provides both "off the shelf" and custom made solutions, we deal with this sort of thing all the time.

    Your "Airfix" example - return of goods is NOT unconditional.

    *copied from the distance selling regs act*

    (2) The consumer shall be treated as having been under a duty throughout the period prior to cancellation -

    (a) to retain possession of the goods, and

    (b) to take reasonable care of them.

    your example does not show reasonable care - therefore the seller is under no obligation to accept it back.

    Additionally (Edited)

    Exceptions to the right to cancel

    13. - (1) Unless the parties have agreed otherwise, the consumer will not have the right to cancel the contract by giving notice of cancellation pursuant to regulation 10 in respect of contracts -

    (c) for the supply of goods made to the consumer's specifications or clearly personalised or which by reason of their nature cannot be returned or are liable to deteriorate or expire rapidly;

    (d) for the supply of audio or video recordings or computer software if they are unsealed by the consumer;

  13. Anonymous Coward

    This new law is rubbish

    Hi, this is ridiculous ruling, it would never fly in the USA, glad I don't live in the EU. As far as shop accepting refund in full in a store, thats ok, no direct loss of monies. But shipping to customer is expense an causes and unfair loss to business if item is returned at customer's whim.

  14. Kevin Martin

    Do the retailers then get reimbursed by the post carriers?

    If the retailers have to reimburse the entire purchase, including postal costs, do they then get to request reimbursement of the postal costs from the post carrier company? Seems like the retailer gets hosed twice, once by paying back the costs to ship to the customer, and second by not being able to recoup that cost of doing business from the carrier (unless the retailer is padding the cost of shipping, as a company that I worked for did...then screw 'em as they are screwing the consumer).

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