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Do you run an e-shop? Update your terms and conditions

Stone sellers and especially e-shops have been given a series of new obligations by the legislator for the New Year, which should be reflected in practice and terms and conditions. What are the changes affecting and when are they to be implemented?

Majitelka e-shopu s kosmetikou, změna obchodních podmínek
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Chapters of the article

Consumer law has seen the biggest changes in many years. Many media outlets reported on what was changing for consumers as early as the end of 2022. However, e-shop operators in particular need to be on their guard, as ignorance of the law is no excuse. The new regulations came into force on 6 January this year, and from this date they should have been fully implemented in the practices of traders. However, not all changes require a change in the terms and conditions. If you are unsure whether your terms and conditions comply with the current law, have them reviewed by experts.

Do you have current terms and conditions?

Creation or modification of terms and conditions: Whether you’re setting up an e-shop, launching a new service, or starting a business, your website should not be missing terms and conditions. They should then be reviewed from time to time to ensure that they are in line with current legislation. We will review and modify them for you online, tailored to your business and at a predetermined price.

Let’s take a look at the different areas of the terms and conditions and the changes that are to be made to them.

Complaints

The time limit for making a claim remains two years. However, the length of the period during which the so-called presumption of defect has been applied so far is changing. Under the previous legislation, a customer could claim almost any defect within six months of purchasing the goods and the legal presumption that the customer had already purchased the goods with such a defect applied. It was up to the seller to prove otherwise.

The new law strengthens consumers’ rights, but on the contrary, bricks-and-mortar retailers and e-shop operators will be weakened. This period has been doubled to one year. Therefore, if a customer comes in with a broken hairdryer, a damaged backpack or a shark on his shoe within this period, it will be up to you as sellers to prove that your product was faultless and that the damage was caused by the customer’s own careless handling. However, this is rather difficult to prove retrospectively.

The procedure for dealing with a claim

The complaints procedure is also changing slightly. If a customer claims a broken product and his claim is justified, he should be able to choose whether he wants a new product (for example, a damaged backpack) or whether he wants to repair the existing one. If this is possible (e.g. if the product is not sold out or is not too expensive), you should allow the customer to make this choice.
If both options are impossible or significantly expensive, then the consumer can ask for a discount and, in the case of a significant defect, also withdraw from the contract.

What are you responsible for in a product?

As a seller, you are primarily responsible for ensuring that the product you sell has the promised characteristics. However, this does not only apply to what is written on the product packaging. You must also be careful about what you write about the product on the internet, on social media or in newsletters. Of course, if such misinformation comes from the manufacturer itself, then you can claim damages back from the manufacturer.

As a seller, you should also guarantee the functionality to match the usual characteristics of items of the same kind.

You must always provide both the packaging and the instructions for the product, and check the instructions for errors. This could also be read out to you. But the good news is that you can save our forests and provide the instructions only in electronic form. However, it is not enough to simply link to your or the manufacturer’s website, you must provide a specific document, e.g. on a USB stick or ideally by email.

The above changes regarding complaints should also be reflected in your terms and conditions or complaints policy (if you have one separate from your terms and conditions).

Careful on discounting

Some retailers treat discounts in, shall we say, a slightly wilder way. For example, they plan a Black Friday, pre-Christmas or post-Christmas sale, so they discount certain goods a week before the event, so that they can then discount them by ten per cent compared to the regular price, but advertise the discount as twenty or thirty per cent. For example, imagine a coffee machine that normally costs five thousand crowns, in mid-November the trader suddenly prices it at 5,500 crowns, and on Black Friday the price is suddenly 4,400 and the trader boasts a twenty percent discount. The fact that the discount is realistically only 600 crowns the ordinary customer has not yet seen.

Similar tricks have been repeatedly highlighted by the media and consumer organisations in the past. However, such tricks are theoretically over.

Now, the lowest price in the last month before the discount should be written as the original price. It is therefore possible for price increases and subsequent discounts to occur, but not within the same weekend, as has often been the case to date. The exception to this rule is perishable products, typically foodstuffs.

Tip: We have described other new legal developments that are or will be in force from this year in our separate article.

Withdrawal from the contract

If you buy goods online, you have 14 days to withdraw from the contract. Some customers see this 14-day period as an opportunity to try the goods properly or borrow them free of charge. They take the new shoes to the company and return the slightly scuffed shoes in the box and send them to the manufacturer, brew coffee in the coffee machine and return the machine with the rest of the loger. But, of course, this is not what the statutory period is for and e-shops must not be abused for free fortnightly product testing. The legislator has therefore now taken a step to discourage customers from doing so. In fact, sellers now have the right to give customers less money back when they withdraw from a contract if they do not return the goods in the same condition as they would have been if they had tried them in the shop. Literally, the law says that the customer is liable for any diminution in the value of the goods that “results from handling the goods in a manner other than that necessary to acquaint him with the nature, characteristics and functionality of the goods.” Of course, this does not prevent him from putting on the shoes and trying on the size, for example, or unpacking the coffee machine from the box, but it is not possible that trying on the product leaves any marks on it and impairs its subsequent sale.

At the same time, the wording of some of the reasons for not being able to withdraw from the contract is also changed.
These changes also merit an explicit amendment to the terms and conditions.

Warranty card

The amended law also clarifies the obligations concerning the guarantee certificate. It must be issued together with the goods, but, as with the instructions, an electronic form is sufficient.
The warranty card should contain information on:

  • the possibility of making a claim,
  • the definition of the goods,
  • contact information of the e-shop,
  • the warranty process
  • and what exactly the warranty covers and its terms and conditions (e.g. who pays the shipping costs).

Personalisation of prices

Have you ever found the cheapest book in an e-shop via a comparison site and when you returned later that day, the price suddenly seemed a few tens of crowns higher? It might not have been a mirage, as some e-shops have automatic mechanisms that adjust prices. It may depend on how you get to the website. Do you think that this “unfair practice” should be put right? Not yet. However, the seller must now inform about such practices on its website so that the customer can make an informed decision.

Requirements for terms and conditions

The amendment sets out a wider range of information that a trader must disclose to a consumer before concluding a contract.

In addition to the identity of the trader, it is now mandatory to include the address of the registered office and telephone contact details. And, if they exist, also, for example, an e-mail address or details of after-sales service and its conditions.

The above changes must be incorporated into the terms and conditions from January 2023. If traders do not comply with the new rules on guarantees, they can be fined up to CZK 5 million by the CTIA.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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