E-Commerce: What applies to orders from abroad?

US NEWS

Anyone who orders goods on the Internet should take a close look at the dealer’s imprint. Otherwise, in case of doubt, there could be nasty surprises.

Whether it’s a jogging suit, lamp or headphones – there is almost nothing on the Internet that is not available. A few clicks – and the goods are already ordered. What is sometimes not apparent at first: The information about the product is in German, as is the name of the provider. In fact, the goods come from the Far East.

As long as everything goes well, it doesn’t matter. But what should you do if the order does not arrive, is delayed, or is defective? “That can lead to problems because online retailers based abroad have to pay more attention to them,” says Georg Tryba from the consumer center in North Rhine-Westphalia in Düsseldorf. In general, according to Tryba, when shopping online, it is advisable not to simply click on “Buy”, but first to find out from whom you are buying.

“Marketplace operators such as Ebay have to ensure that the identity of the retailer is clearly recognizable,” explains Eva Behling. She is an in-house lawyer for the Federal Association of E-Commerce and Mail Order (bevh) in Berlin. Every dealer must give his address and other contact details in his imprint. The consumer has the opportunity to check where the retailer is based, whether in Germany, in the EU or elsewhere. This information can, for example, help you to estimate how long the delivery can take.

If, contrary to expectations, the product does not arrive at all or is defective, the customer is entitled to warranty claims against the seller. “In general, everyone has the right to receive a product that has been purchased without any errors,” says Tryba. The customer has a legally regulated claim against the seller for the warranty as liability for material defects.

Platforms offer some protection

If it is difficult to contact the seller or if he does not answer at all, many marketplace operators offer help on their own and reimburse the purchase price, for example. “On Amazon there is about the AZ guarantee or on Ebay the Ebay buyer protection”, explains Behling. Individual payment service providers also make quick repayments if there are problems processing the contract. One example is PayPal buyer protection.

In order to prepare themselves from the outset when buying online, consumers should always pay attention to a secure payment method. “Never pay in advance or with a credit card,” advises Tryba. The variants on account or by direct debit are better. “Then, for example, defective goods can simply be returned without customers having to pay in advance,” says consumer advocate Tryba.

Customers have a warranty claim

But what if the goods are defective after a year? “German consumers have a warranty claim for two years if the goods show a defect when they are delivered,” explains Behling. So it may be that a deficiency was present from the start, but only shows up after a while.

“Currently, in the first six months after delivery, it is assumed that a defect that appears within these six months already existed when the goods were transferred from the seller to the buyer,” explains Behling.

After the six weeks, the retailer can ask the consumer to provide evidence – but he does not have to. “Many dealers do without it,” says Tryba. Which means: With these retailers, consumers actually have a two-year warranty.

Customers must expect additional costs

What is also important: If you order goods from an online shop abroad, you have to expect additional taxes, customs fees and high shipping costs. “The seller is obliged to point out these additional costs to the customer,” explains Tryba.

A 14-day right of withdrawal also applies across the EU. That means: The customer can cancel the purchase 14 days after the conclusion of a contract or the receipt of the ordered goods. He must inform the dealer of this.

Which law is applicable?

And what do customers have to consider when shopping online outside the EU? “If there are problems with contract processing, it can be difficult to enforce your own rights in court,” says Behling. When it comes to the question of which law is applicable – that in the country of the seller or that in the country of the customer – it depends on whether the entrepreneur has focused his commercial activity on the home country of the consumer.

This is the case, for example, when the provider advertises itself in the consumer’s country using newspaper advertisements. “In the case of online shops, the particular website plays a role,” explains Tryba. For example, is there a telephone number with a German area code? Can consumers order in German? “These can all be indications that local law is applicable,” says Tryba.

Consumers should carefully weigh up in each individual case whether and which products they order from online retailers from non-EU countries. You should always ask yourself whether the goods are actually worth the risk that they are either defective or arrive more or less delayed. It is possible that the same product is cheaper in Germany or in the EU.

It can also happen that a delivery from non-EU countries reaches the recipient incompletely and a subsequent delivery is due. “But that can be a knockout criterion, especially when the product is needed quickly,” says Behling.

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