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 to protect your customer from the risks involved in long-distance sales.
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
- the ordering process and how you supply the purchase
- guarantee and (after sales) service
- the legal reflection (cancellation) period
It is not sufficient if the information can only be found on your website. You have to provide your customer with this information in a letter, email, or pdf, for example. You must always clearly confirm an order.
Do you sell products or services via telephone? Then you must comply with the rules for telesales.
Misleading is an offence
You are allowed to entice customers online to buy a product or service. Misleading is not allowed; it is a criminal offence. You may not influence your customer in such a way that they make a choice they would not make if he had been able to choose freely and honestly.
The authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) monitors the protection of online consumers. In the ACM’s Guidelines on the protection of the online consumer you can find the rules you can follow to prevent customer deception.
Clear information on your company
Your website must provide full clarity about your company’s identity. On your website you must state:
- the full registered name (name in the deed of incorporation) and trade name
- address details
- contact details such as e-mail address, telephone number, and chat option
- your Netherlands Chamber of Commerce number (KVK-nummer)
- VAT identification number (btw-id)
- how you deal with complaints (and whether you are affiliated with a complaints board)
Your customer must be able to easily find this information on your website.
Clear information on search process and results
Customers should be able to distinguish between real search results and paid results. If you change the order of the search results you should explain why. For example because:
- the search result is paid advertising
- a customer gets a tailor-made offer (personalised result)
- a search result gets a higher ranking because it has been paid for
This applies to online market places, search engines, and comparison websites.
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 priceincluding 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)
- how much and for how long they have to pay for a subscription or supply contract
Clear information on payment methods
You have to be clear about the accepted payment methods. You may not always pass on payment costs. And it should be clear at which step in the ordering process the customer will pay. For example by showing an 'order and pay' button. You must send your customer a written confirmation of the order after the purchase.
Clear information on delivery
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 agreed period
- 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
Do you operate an online platform? You must make clear who is responsible for the delivery and the handling of returns (trader or platform).
Clear information on guarantee and service
You have to let your customers know how you deal with complaints and whether you are affiliated to a complaints board. You haver to put a link on your website to the European Online Dispute Resilolution platform. Make sure to state the rate for calling your customer service department.
Does the product not meet reasonable expectations or is it defective? Then you customer is entitled to a legal guarantee.
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 offer your customer a withdrawal form with which they can cancel their purchase. You can also offer the form on your website but you must make sure your customer knows where to find it.
There are exceptions to this rule (in Dutch), among others, 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 or personalised 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.
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 false 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.
Be clear on advertising
You must let your customers know when you advertise. Customers must be able to recognise when content is sponsored. This also applies if you use well-known persons (influencers) to recommend a product (or service).
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 for example financial services, telephone subscriptions, and healthcare are excluded from this rule.
Selling to businesses (B2B)
Do you sell products at distance to other businesses, foundations, or associations (business to business, B2B)? These customers are not covered by consumer law. 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 an online platform as an entrepreneur
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. Very large platforms must keep to the rules following from the European Digital Markets Act.