ECJ says Returning Costs of Deliveries are to be Shared

While online business is booming, there is often a fuss on who is to pay the costs for returning a product. The European Court of Justice has brought justice to this quarrel with its judgment of April 15, 2010 (re C-511/08).


The Northrhein-Westfalian consumer advice center (Verbraucherzentrale Nordrhein-Westfalen) had won a case in court after the Federal Court of Justice the ECJ. A provision whereupon returning a product to the vendor after making use of one's right of revocation, it is not permissible to be charged for the return costs. This case was all about a share in postage & handling of € 4.95.

The Distance Selling Directive of 1997 forbids for a consumer to pay for returning costs when he revokes a sales contract. Aim of this directive is not to prevent the consumer of executing his right of revocation. The court saw it as inequitable when a person has to pay for receiving and also for returning the merchandise after revoking the contract in a remote sale.

German mail-order business is, due to the precedence of the ECJ, in a paradoxical situation:

  • German consumers may - as opposed to most other Europeans - not be called upon to pay the costs of return.
  • There is an exception for merchandise with a worth below € 40 to prevent misuse of the right of revocation,
  • The Federal Association of Mail Order Businesses (Bundesverband des Deutschen Versandhandels) therefore demands a change to German law to meet EU guidelines.



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