Buying from an Online Marketplace: What to pay attention to?

More and more e-commerce businesses are hosting 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 site operates as a Marketplace, as a platform that hosts other independent sellers based in other countries, whether they are European or outside the European Union.

Since 12 July 2020 and the implementation of European regulation 2019/1150 on the transparency of online platforms, any Marketplace based in an EU country must ensure the visibility the seller’s identity and share the contact information, delivery times, right of withdrawal information, methods of dispute resolution, etc. with the consumer.

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

Can a seller situated outside of the EU, in Asia for example, be hosted by a French Marketplace?

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

 

From July 1st, marketplaces is considered as having 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 be paid and the marketplace have 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 of your order in customs with additional fees to be paid to receive it.

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. With the sales contracts being 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, which may prove to be more complicated when the seller lives outside the EU. Certain Marketplaces, however, offer guarantees in the event of a problem.

 

What are my rights for online purchases in Europe?

If you are buying online with a professional situated in a European Union country, you benefit in certain cases from a 14-day withdrawal period which 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 yearsafter delivery. This allows you, in the event of defective products, to demand the seller for the repair or replacement of the good, or if these two options are impossible, reimbursement of costs paid.

 

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, even if situated outside the EU, must respect French consumer law, which itself is largely based on 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 the other side of the world to reimburse you after you exercised your cooling-off right? How to force him/her to apply the legal guarantee?

Tips:

  • Contactyourseller. The platform may allow you to easily contact your seller.
  • Check in the general sales conditions of the Marketplace, 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” that can cover you in cases of defective goods, late delivery, etc. Be informed!

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