Buying from an online marketplace: What to pay attention to?

More and more e-commerce businesses host independent sellers from different countries on their sites, earning a commission with each sale. They thus become “marketplaces”. What are the possible consequences for your purchase? What to look for before making a purchase? Our responses to your questions in our FAQ below.

While surfing on the site of a French major retailer, I bought from a seller situated in another European country. How is this possible?

The French online shopping website operates as an online marketplace, as a platform that hosts other independent sellers. These sellers can be based in other countries, whether it be Europe or outside the European Union.

The European Digital Services Act (DSA) requires from all European online marketplaces or marketplaces directing their activities towards European consumers to identify any professional seller or service provider before hosting their ads.

Before validating your order on a major e-commerce retailer’s website, check the seller’s name, nationality, and contact information. He or she can be completely foreign from the retailer. If the information is incomplete and the reviews are negative, it is better to move on to a different seller.

Can a French marketplace host a seller situated outside of the EU, in Asia for example?

Yes, thanks to these platforms, more and more sellers located outside of the European Union have access to French customers. Beware of the customs duties that can apply if the merchandise comes from a third country. Also look out for possible counterfeits.


From the tax perspective, marketplaces have bought and sold the products themselves. Consequences: if you order from a European seller on a marketplace, for less than €150 of products from a third country, VAT is part of the price to pay and the marketplace has to collect, declare and remit VAT instead of the sellers. The same applies if you buy on a marketplace from a seller outside the EU, regardless of the amount. You should therefore no longer have to suffer from a blockage in customs with additional fees to pay.

I have a problem with my seller and the marketplace who hosts this seller refuses to help me. Why?

The marketplace (sales platform) is, most often, just an intermediary between the consumer and the seller. The sales contract is concluded directly between them. The marketplace cannot be held responsible for the poor execution of a contract  (not delivered, defective product, etc.).In the event of a complaint concerning the sales contract, you shouldgenerally contact the seller and not the platform. This may prove to be more complicated when the seller lives outside the EU. Certain marketplaces, however, offer guarantees or intermediation services in the event of a problem.


What are my rights when purchasing on an online marketplace in Europe?

If you are buying on an online marketplace from a professional situated in a European Union country, you benefit in certain cases from a 14-day withdrawal period. This right allows you to cancel your order and send back the items without having to justify yourself. You also benefit from a legal guarantee of conformity of at least 2 years  after delivery. This allows you, in the event of defective products, to request from the seller the repair or replacement of the good. If these two options are impossible, you can request a reimbursement of the purchase price.


How to exercise my rights with a seller outside the EU?

When buying from a seller located in, for example, the United States or in Asia on a French marketplace, you generally have the same rights as if you were buying from a seller in France. By directing his or her activities towards French consumers, this seller must respect French consumer law. This applies even if the seller is situated outside the EU. And French consumer law itself largely originates from European regulations and directives. But even if the rights are the same, their enforcement may prove to be much more complicated. How to compel a seller on abroad to reimburse you after you exercised your cooling-off right? How to force him or her to apply the legal guarantee?


  • Contact yourseller. The platform may allow you to easily contact your seller.
  • Check in the general sales conditions of the marketplace. Check if this includes the seller’s customer service and if it deals with the return of products, for example.
  • Certain marketplaces also offer, for free or for a fee, a commercial guarantee or “insurance”. This guarantee could cover you in cases of defective goods, late delivery, etc. Inform yourself!

When can ECC France help me?

Thanks to our colleagues in 30 European countries (the ECC-Net), the European Consumer Centre France can help you effectively and without charge in the event of a complaint against a trader based in another EU country, Iceland, Norway or the United Kingdom.

If you are in a dispute with a European trader, contact us via our complaint form

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.