Upcoming EU consumer-rights legislation could harm small businesses that sell goods over the internet, according to the Forum of Private Business.
The small-business organisation said on Thursday that the EU Consumer Rights Directive, which could come into force in 2013 if passed, included provisions that would be unfair on small e-commerce firms. The disputed sections would force European e-tailers to sell their goods across the continent and pay the postage costs if a customer returns goods worth more than £35 within their statutory 14-day 'cooling-off' period.
"Being obliged to sell to every single country in the EU may not be a problem for multi-national companies, but it could spell the death knell for countless SMEs in the ecommerce industry," Forum chief executive Phil Orford said in a statement. "Many independent online retailers only have the expertise and the infrastructure to sell to the domestic market, or to a select few overseas countries, and some have built themselves up around one particular product which they are only licensed to sell in a certain national market."
The group also said it was concerned that, if passed, the new rules would lead to problems with payment processing, fraud and local regulations around Europe.
The Consumer Rights Directive is the most complex piece of consumer rights legislation to be formulated in the EU since the idea of the single market was introduced. It is seen by the European Commission as fundamental to creating the single market, while ensuring customers get protection across the continent.