Twelve of the hundred largest webshops in the Netherlands do not offer customers the opportunity to contact customer service directly via the site, while this is required by law. This pops up from an inventory made by NOS. The Consumers’ Association also regularly receives complaints about this when it comes to small online shops.
It can lead to major inconveniences: something goes wrong with the order and customer service becomes unavailable. Since May 28 last year, it has become mandatory for online shops to mention a working phone number and email address on the website. Companies that do not comply with this risk being fined.
Contact details such as phone number and email address must be provided in a clear and understandable manner. So online stores do not comply with the rules if the consumer cannot find this information easily. For example, phone numbers are hidden in the general terms and conditions, or only given after a conversation conversation.
NOS has spoken to several consumers for whom the lack of a phone number on the site has caused great frustration. Like Laura Appelo, who ordered €850 worth of clothes from the Asos webshop. When she wanted to return a number of items and had a question about the return label, it turned out to be impossible to contact them by phone.
“It took 30 days before I got an answer to my email. If I could have contacted someone, I could have arranged that quickly.” Because the return period expired, she did not get her money back. Asos gave her a voucher for the value of the returned clothing.
The Consumers Union regularly receives complaints about inaccessible web stores, says the spokesperson. “This has to do with technological developments, among other things. Some companies are replacing their employees with chatbots, but it’s often not good enough. People also want personal contact.”
If you have an online store, some obligations come with it. Accessibility is definitely part of that.
The same Consumers Association has also noted that it is difficult to offer personal contact in a narrow job market. “We also sometimes have trouble meeting the strict response times we used to have in the past. Now that’s not always possible. But if you have a webstore, there are certain obligations. Part of that is definitely good reach.”
A step backward
Branch organization Thuiswinkel.org is not happy with the new regulations. “The obligation to always provide a phone number and email address feels like a step backwards”And explains director Marilyn Tenham.
“Of course webshops should be easily accessible, but nowadays this can also be done in other ways such as chatting, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. It is also a requirement that webshops enable speed communication, but how the webshop does that will be important to us. Concerns should be left to the entrepreneur.”
Online stores Amazon, Greetz and VidaXL have the Thuiswinkel quality mark, but they don’t have a phone number on their website. Thuiswinkel.nl does not comment on individual cases, but says companies will be given time to comply with the new rules before withdrawing the quality label.
The responsibility for supervising online stores rests with the Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM). A spokesperson says no enforcement has taken place yet. ACM can issue a warning, threaten a penalty, or impose a fine. The consumer can also go to court if the company does not comply with the information obligation.
“Lifelong zombie fanatic. Hardcore web practitioner. Thinker. Music expert. Unapologetic pop culture scholar.”
First person convicted of fatal shooting in Rust | Movies and TV shows
Case holders lose summary procedure and have to leave the hotel in Rijswijk
Criticism of a tax rule that makes oat milk more expensive, but not regular milk