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Online sales and purchases (web shop)

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Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

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Do you sell products or services through online channels in the Netherlands? You must comply with certain rules.

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Do you sell products or services online in the Netherlands? For instance through a web shop or online platform? You must comply with legal rules protecting your customer from the risks involved in long-distance sales.

Obligation to provide information

You must provide clear information on:

  • who you are
  • how search results are achieved
  • the main characteristics of the items you sell
  • the price of products or services, and the payment method
  • how you supply the purchase
  • the legal reflection (cancellation) period
  • the ordering process

You must always clearly confirm an order. Do you sell products or services via telephone? Then you must comply with the rules for telesales.

Clear information on your company

Your website must provide full clarity about your company’s identity. On your website you must state:

Your customer must be able to easily find this information on your website.

Clear information on search results

Can consumers search your online platform, online marketplace, or comparison website for products and services offered by traders or other consumers? As the provider of the online search functionality, you should inform consumers how the ranking of the search results is determined. You must make clear if a search result is paid advertising, or if it appears higher in the results list because it has been paid for.

Clear information on products and prices

You must make clear exactly what you sell and what the costs are. Your customer should be able to read all the information before ordering, for instance:

  • the features and characteristics of the product that you sell (in Dutch) such as size, colour, material, model, or type number
  • the features and characteristics of the service that your offer (in Dutch), for example what is needed to use the service, how often do you supply the service, what is included and excluded
  • the price including VAT (btw) (you may only state prices excluding VAT if you do not sell to consumers)
  • if a price is personalised, for instance because of an algorithm that tracks what this customer has bought previously
  • additional costs (for instance shipping costs)
  • accepted payment methods

Consumer reviews

You must check that consumer ratings and reviews that appear with the products, are genuine before they can be put online. You must also let your customers know if and how you check if a review or endorsement is from someone who actually bought or used the product.

You cannot post reviews, or have false reviews posted. You are not allowed to pay someone to post reviews. You are also not allowed to manipulate consumer reviews and endorsements by, for instance, publishing only positive reviews and deleting the negative ones.

Delivery

Do you operate an online platform? You must make clear who is responsible for delivery and the handling of returns (trader or platform).

For the delivery of the products, delivery time, and the risks you should meet at least the following requirements:

  • you tell your customer upfront where, how, and when you deliver
  • you must deliver within 30 days, or the time agreed
  • if you do not deliver on time, your customer may cancel the purchase and you must reimburse all payments that have already been made
  • you bear the risk of loss or damages until the customer has received the product
  • if the customer chooses a delivery service, the risk falls to the delivery company

Reflection period for consumers

In case of online sales, your customers are entitled to a reflection period (approval period) of at least 14 calendar days. The reflection period starts from the moment your customer has received the product. Customers have the right to cancel their purchase during those 14 days without explanation or costs. You must have a withdrawal form on your website that follows the EU rules.

There are exceptions to this rule if:

  • you sell sealed products, for hygiene reasons for instance, and the seal is broken. When your customer breaks the seal, they lose their right to cancel the purchase
  • you sell a customised item
  • you sell goods or services that have prices depending on fluctuations in the financial market, which may occur within the reflection period
  • you sell goods which deteriorate or expire quickly
  • you sell newspapers and magazines (except when you offer a subscription)
  • you offer tickets or services for a specific date or period, such as car rentals, hotel bookings, or airline tickets

If any exceptions apply to an item, your customer must be informed about the exceptions when buying the item.

Cross-border sales (geoblocking)

You must treat customers from other EU countries the same way as customers in your home (EU) country. If you fail to this, it may be considered geoblocking, which is prohibited. Foreign customers from the EU must be able to use your website or app in the same way as your national customer. Customers from another EU country must be able to buy your product or service under the same conditions and for the same price. This does not apply to all services. Services such as financial services, telephone subscriptions, and healthcare are excluded from this rule.

Selling to businesses (B2B)

If you sell products at distance to other businesses, foundations, or associations (business to business, B2B), these customers do not have consumer rights. This means among others that:

  • these customers do not have a legal reflection period. You may offer this of course, but you state this in your general terms and conditions;
  • less guarantee rules apply than for consumers. You state the limited guarantee in your general terms and conditions.

For B2B sales you have to observe the rules on agreements and purchase agreements of Books 6 and 7 of the Dutch Civil Code (Burgerlijk Wetboek). The same rules that apply to businesses, also apply to foundations and associations.

Doing business with online platforms

Entrepreneurs doing business with online platforms are protected under the European regulation on platform-to-business practices (P2B regulation). This includes all booking and comparing websites, web shops, and app stores.

The regulation also applies to companies that do not have their headquarters within the EU, but do operate there, such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon. These rules improve transparency and make it easier to resolve conflicts. They are as follows:

  • digital platforms must make sure their general terms and conditions are clear and easy to find
  • platforms must be open about how they order search results
  • if platforms decide to remove a trader, they must be transparent about the reason why
  • platforms must be open about how they present their own products or services compared to other parties’
  • platforms must enable entrepreneurs to resolve a conflict quickly and for free
  • platforms should have external mediators that can be deployed to deal with conflicts

The last 2 rules do not apply to smaller platforms, that have fewer than 250 employees and a yearly turnover of less than 50 million euro.

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This information is provided by

Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
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