While you shouldn’t expect 100% security when shopping online, you can avoid pitfalls by being cautious when disclosing your personal data for payments and by being diligent in monitoring the information vendors provide about themselves.
- an anti-virus program – to detect any viruses in your computer. These programs can be downloaded; some of them are free of charge.
- a firewall – this is the divide between your computer and the Internet. It is used to control the flow of data to and from your computer, blocking anything you don’t want in your computer and anything that could be a potential threat.
Your rights online
If you shop online at a retailer from another country of the European Union, Norway or Iceland, you can be sure that you will always have at least the same consumer rights as if you were purchasing in the Czech Republic. If certain consumer rights are more advantageous in the vendor’s state than in the Czech Republic, you can also claim those rights.
Exemptions: contracts for services provided exclusively in a country other than the consumer’s habitual residence (e.g. an Internet connection at a place of temporary residence in another country), contracts of carriage (car rentals, air travel, travel by train or bus, etc.) or contracts relating to a right in rem attached to real estate or a right to use property.
Time limit for withdrawal from a contract
If you purchase a product over the Internet, you can withdraw from the contract without giving any reason within 14 days of receipt of the product. Simply write a letter or e-mail to the vendor that you are withdrawing from the contract. Then return the product. Some e-shops have their own forms for withdrawal from a contract without giving any reason; we recommend that you read their terms and conditions.
In EU countries, Norway and Iceland, the length of these periods varies; the minimum is seven days. Czechs purchasing remotely in those countries always have a 14-day time limit to withdraw from the contract without giving a reason because that is the deadline under Czech legislation.
Example: You buy a laptop online. Since you were unable to try it out in advance, after turning it on at home you find that its functions are entirely unsuited to your needs. Within 14 days of receipt of the consignment, you can therefore withdraw from the contract in writing.
Exemptions: Consumers cannot withdraw from a contract for perishable goods, products subject to rapid wear and tear, or audio and video recordings and software if the consumer has opened the original packaging, etc.
The vendor must refund the full amount paid by the consumer for the purchase of the goods (e.g. less shipping), within 30 days of proper withdrawal. The supplier is entitled only to compensation for costs actually incurred in connection with the return of the goods.
Delivery of instructions in Czech
A vendor abroad who offers goods to Czech consumers is legally obliged to include instructions in Czech with the goods. If you do not receive Czech instructions, ask for them. The same applies to mandatory information such as the complaint procedure.
Potential problems when shopping online
In exceptional cases, a transaction with an e-shop may be problematic – the retailer does not receive payment, fails to deliver the goods, or supplies goods different from those you ordered. In this case, do not hesitate to contact the seller.
If the retailer does not receive payment, make sure you have entered all the correct payment information, and if necessary contact your bank.
If you have a legitimate complaint, you are entitled to seek compensation from the seller for all necessary costs associated with the complaint. These tend to be the cost of transporting the claimed goods to the seller (e.g. postage).
Be wary of scammers
Always find out who is “at the other end”, i.e. who you are sending your money to and disclosing your personal data to. If you are not completely confident about the goods or vendor, ask the retailer for further information. Read the General Terms and Conditions, which all reputable e-shops should set out clearly and display in a visible place.
There are fraudsters who offer electronics on Czech sites for a fraction of their normal price, but never deliver the goods. In fact, what they do is fleece consumers of more and more money under various pretexts (e.g. they packed more goods in your shipment than you ordered), often running into tens of thousands of crowns. They generally demand cash payments, for example via Western Union, to the bank accounts of private individuals. The European Consumer Centre at the CTI strongly warns you to be on your guard!
Use the Howard system!
Check the credibility of online traders in the EU, Norway and Iceland through the ECC online network assistant. Howard will find information about the site you want to purchase from – when it was registered, what the reactions of other consumers are, and will look it up in the commercial register, inform you whether the e-shop has a trustmark, and so on. Howard cannot fully guarantee that a website is trustworthy, and cannot guarantee its quality, but it will help you to form a picture of the seller prior to your purchase based on available information and commercial registers.
The Howard online assistant is available from the website of the European Consumer Centre Czech Republic at www.coi.cz/esc, where you will also find more detailed information.
Be very careful when shopping at an electronic marketplace, such as eBay, where not only companies and traders but also many private individuals sell goods and services. If you do business with these private individuals, i.e. you enter into a consumer-consumer relationship, you cannot enforce any consumer rights, warranties, rights of withdrawal, etc. However, if you buy from businesses (commercial companies or traders), then you are entitled to exercise your consumer rights, provided that you are purchasing items directly and not in an online auction.
The most common means of online payment is by card. Experts advise not to pay with cards directly connected with your account, where high amounts of money can be found. If your details are misused, thieves could empty your account. It is better to pay with a card on which only a small amount is necessary for normal electronic payments.
Keep track of any additional expenditure. The final price should be clearly communicated by the vendor. However, pay attention to possible extra costs, which may be due to the conversion of currencies or duty and taxes (if you shop outside the EU), etc.
If the goods aren’t delivered, contact your bank to find out how you can recover your payment via interbank channels (chargeback).
A reputable e-shop is an establishment which meets its legal obligations under Section 53 of the Civil Code, which is based on European legislation (Directive 97/7/EC on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts). These duties include providing the following information to the purchaser in advance:
- the supplier’s identity and address, and where appropriate registration number;
- basic characteristics of the goods or services;
- the price of goods or services, including all taxes and fees;
- any shipping costs;
- arrangements regarding the terms of payment, and the method of delivery or supply;
- the existence of the right to withdraw from the contract.
Where to ask for help
If a retailer from another EU country, despite your requests, fails to deliver goods or does not want to resolve a complaint in accordance with your legitimate claim, or if other irregularities arise, you can contact the Czech European Consumer Centre (ECC).
Its lawyers will try to help you free of charge out of court, in collaboration with colleagues from the Centre in the relevant EU country, Norway or Iceland. Simply fill in the electronic form at www.coi.cz/esc, describe your case and attach scanned proof of purchase and correspondence with the retailer, and any other relevant documents. If you are unable to complete the form, you can e-mail all the necessary details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What could happen
Case I: Non-delivery
A Czech customer ordered music CDs from a Danish online store and paid for them by card. However, he never received the goods, worth CZK 1,200, despite several reminders. He then asked for his money back. As the Danish retailer was no longer communicating with him, he turned to the Czech European Consumer Centre (ECC).
ECC lawyers assessed his case on the basis of the proof of purchase and the e-mail communications with the retailer, and forwarded it to their Danish colleagues. At their urging, the retailer remedied the situation and refunded the customer’s money.
Case II: Claim
A Czech customer complained about an mp3 player she had bought in a German e-shop. The vendor received the complaint, but failed to resolve it within 30 days (the time limit set by Czech law on consumer protection). Therefore, referring to Czech law, she withdrew from the contract and demanded a refund. The vendor did not want to give her the money back and processed the claim after nearly three months. The customer disagreed with this approach, and because the German e-shop insisted it was in the right, she contacted the European Consumer Centre, which in turn got in touch with its German colleagues. After being warned that the Czech customer’s rights had been infringed, the retailer accepted her withdrawal and refunded the price of the player.
This leaflet has been issued by the European Consumer Centre Czech Republic, funded by the European Commission and the Czech Trade Inspectorate.
The ECC provides advice and information on consumer rights in the European common market and on the enforcement of those rights.
It helps consumers deal with complaints and disputes with sellers of products and services in EU Member States, Norway and Iceland.
In its handling of these cases, it cooperates with other European Consumer Centres in EU countries, Norway and Iceland.
It mediates the amicable resolution of cross-border consumer disputes (ADR).
It also assists customers from other European Union countries in their disputes with Czech retailers.
European Consumer Centre Czech Republic
at the Czech Trade Inspectorate
120 00 Praha 2
tel.: +420 296 366 155