The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 establishes legal rules that online retailers and service providers must comply with when dealing with consumers in the 27 member countries of the European Union (EU). The directive dictates the information that consumers must be provided with in online transactions. If a retailer/service provider fails to provide information required by the directive, its contract with the consumer may be invalid and it may be in breach of member state retail law.
Services covered by the directive include paid-for and free online information services provision, and online selling of products and services such as advertising, professional services, entertainment, and Internet and telephony service provision.
Retailers/service providers must provide the following information to consumers when conducting business via electronic means:
- The technical steps involved in placing an order.
- The terms and conditions under which a contract is made. This information must be available to the consumer in a way that can be reproduced and stored.
- Prices must be clear and state whether tax or shipping costs are included.
- The name of the service provider, its email address (a contact form is not sufficient) and a geographic address.
- Acknowledgement of the order by electronic means and information on how to amend input errors made during the order process.
- If it is a company, the company's registration number and place of registration.
- Membership details, including registration number of any trade or professional association of which the service provider is a member.
Any breach of these requirements is considered a breach of statutory duty. If the consumer is not informed of how they can amend errors in an order, the contract can be voided.
EU law dictates that electronic transactions are subject to the Internal Market clause, which dictates that 'information society services' are subject to the law of the member state and that a member state cannot restrict incoming services.
The directive also applies to services provided by SMS text messaging. Given the 160 character limit of SMS, the body of the message must contain a URL where the required information can be found.