In the recent days you may have heard the name of Amazon mostly because of the rainforest fires in Brazil. But if you operate a web shop, or just plan to do it, you will be more interested by the Amazon case in Luxembourg. Indeed, the Court of Justice of the European Union has delivered a judgment in the summer, which sheds light on how customer relation with online buyers should be maintained by web-shops in the EU
According to the German Federal Union of Consumer Organisations and Associations (“Federal Union”), the contacts section of Amazon web page did not comply with the European Union rules, as the telephone and fax numbers were not adequately provided.
In fact, the users could reach their telephone number by more clicks, and the fax number was not indicated on the webpage. Furthermore, communication devices which are not mentioned in the European Union directive on this subject, like instant messaging or a telephone call-back system were applied on the Internet site.
The application of the Federal Union was dismissed at first and second instance. The case was brought before the Court of European Union in Luxembourg (“the Court”), and its judgment could help to find your way around how to communicate with your consumers.
The Court had to decide three issues, which, I beg, you have already faced when operating your web shop.
The first question was, whether the German rule, requiring the indication of a telephone number on the webpage, was valid under European Union law.
The second issue was, whether a web-shop should to create a telephone or fax line, or new email address for consumers.
Finally, the Court also had to decide whether you, as a web-shop owner can use new means of communication, which are not mentioned in the European Union legislation, such as instant messaging or a telephone call-back system.
The Court established that you shall not provide, in all circumstances, your telephone number with the consumers. When justifying its decision, the Court referred to the smallest companies who do not necessarily have telephone number, and the German rule providing that it is compulsory, would run counter to their interest.
While this reasoning is correct, it may seem to be a little bit odd in a court procedure against a retail giant, like Amazon.
The Court also stated, that establishing a telephone, fax line and creating an email address to communicate with consumers is an disproportionate obligation. Indication of the fax number or email address is only compulsory where you already have those means of communication with consumers.
In the answer of the last question the Court established that you can maintain relation with your consumers with other means of communication than those listed in that European Directive, if these means of communication are direct and effective.
In the above judgment, the Court of Justice of the European Union established that what conditions should you comply with when maintaining relation with your on-line buyers, however, you can choose the most appropriate means of communication with your customers.
In the light of the decision, you can use flexible and cost-effective methods of communication in your web-shop.
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