wettelijke retourtermijn


legal return period merchant, or the right of withdrawal



Maxine Alders

24 april 2024



legal return period webshop, or the right of withdrawal

Returns, they are a nightmare for every merchant. Not all customers are satisfied with the products they order in your online store, and unfortunately some customers might decide to return their purchase. The reasons might vary - for example, wrong sizing, color or a defect - and such is their right! This is because in the EU the so-called right of withdrawal applies, whereby a purchase can be returned within 14 days without giving reasons. In this article, you'll find out exactly what the legal return period means for merchants.

What is the legal return period for merchants?

With every purchase in an online store, a purchase contract is concluded between the seller and the customer. Under the right of withdrawal, this contract can be cancelled. The right of withdrawal is regulated at EU level, and enshrined in law, and includes a statutory return period of 14 days within which a purchased product can be returned. Within this period, the consumer does not have to give a reason for doing so. Products can therefore be returned even if they are not defective or otherwise wrong.

In "distance selling" - a sales contract where there is no personal contact between the buyer and the seller - buyers do not have the opportunity, before making a purchase, to evaluate the products in person. Therefore, the right of withdrawal was introduced to protect consumers. Although merchants should inform consumers as extensively as possible about their products, the actual assessment of an online purchase only takes place upon receipt. With online purchases, it is therefore especially important that the product can be returned if it does not meet expectations.


The right of withdrawal, what are the obligations for you as a merchant?

Merchants are required to provide their customers with sufficient information about their products so that they can make an informed purchasing decision. Furthermore, online retailers must inform their buyers on their website about the right of withdrawal and the applicable return period. Failure to do so will automatically extend the right of return to 12 months.

The purchase contract must be cancellable in writing, verbally or by phone. Therefore, it is wise to provide a cancellation form on your website. However, a digital returns process that allows customers to register their returns directly online is even more efficient. Although it is not legally required to provide a reason for returns, it is of course interesting for you as a merchant to find out why your products are returned. With a digital returns process, your customers can easily select the reason for returning, which helps you identify problematic products.


How long does a customer have the right of withdrawal?

The right of withdrawal starts from the moment the contract is concluded - the moment of purchase. However, the 14-day return period only begins after receiving the goods. So it is effectively 14 days, including Sundays and holidays. To avoid automatically extending the return period to 12 months, publish clear guidelines about the right of withdrawal on your website. For example, define the return period in the frequently asked questions or on a separate information page located in your footer that informs your customers about your online store's ordering and return process. Transparent communication about the right of withdrawal is not only required by law, but it also helps to strengthen potential buyers' trust - and it counts significantly in a customer's eventual return.


What are the rules regarding right of withdrawal?

Besides the legal withdrawal period and the right to information for consumers, there are other aspects you need to consider when it comes to the right of withdrawal. For example, your customers must be able to provide proof of a legally binding sales contract in order to return an item. If you work with a digital return process, customers can simply enter their e-mail address and order number to initiate a return request. This will automatically retrieve all products in the order and allow customers to select which items they want to return.

This brings us to another aspect of the right of withdrawal. As a general rule, a cancellation must always be complete, that is, the product must be returned in its entirety. In the case of an online purchase where multiple products have been ordered, individual parts of the order, such as individual items of clothing, can also be returned. This is the case, for example, when a customer has ordered an item in several sizes out of uncertainty about the size. It is not possible to return only part of a product - such as the strap of a shoulder bag because it is defective - without returning the entire item. So this means that individual items from one order can be canceled, but not parts of an item.


How is the right of withdrawal built into Returnless' return solution?

There are also products, such as personalized products or products with a limited shelf life, that are excluded from the right of return. Taking all these rules into account can be very time-consuming in the case of a manual return process. With a returns platform like Returnless, you can fully automate your returns process. When a return is registered, all order details are automatically retrieved in the digital return form. The customer can then choose which products to return. If a product is excluded from the right of return, for example because the return period has expired or because the product is excluded from withdrawal in the first place, the return request is automatically rejected.

We also have the return costs. Merchants are not required to cover the cost of returns, even though there are certain cases where it makes sense - for example, in the case of a defective or damaged product. With Returnless, you can set rules that define the conditions under which customers must bear the return costs themselves. Once the customer has completed all the required fields, he or she is automatically redirected to a payment screen where the return label (if necessary) can be paid directly.


Return solution with Returnless' smart return form

Returnless' returns platform offers much more than just right of withdrawal compliance for online retailers. With Returnless' intelligent return form, you can automate your entire return process. You can deploy rules to determine how different types of returns should be handled - whether it's a defective product, an exchange, or simple unforeseen dissatisfaction. This not only ensures a smooth and transparent (shopping) experience for you and your customers, but also generates opportunities to reduce annoying returns. Because if you know what, when and why returns are made, you can anticipate them. For example, you can adjust the product description of products that are frequently returned or even remove them from your assortment immediately. Returnless also allows you to simplify the exchange process by introducing coupon codes and store credit - keeping consumers happy all the while the revenue generated stays in your business.

Are you still processing your returns manually? Then it's time to learn more about Returnless' digital returns process. Create a free test account here or schedule a product demo with one of our experts.

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