New European e-commerce regulations aimed at encouraging greater confidence in internet purchasing came into force in October. These introduced new requirements regarding the provision of information, the promotion of goods over the internet, and the practicalities of transacting over the internet.
One of the most common barriers to internet shopping is that customers are uncertain about who they are dealing with. Online supermarket retailers may have the strength of their brands, but this does not make them exempt from the regulations. On December 19 we reviewed the sites of each of the six retailers in The Grocer 33 online and found there was scope for improvement. The sites were reviewed to assess whether or not they provided the following information: the name of the service provider; the address from which commercial activities were carried out; and easily accessible contact details including an e-mail address and a VAT number. Not one of the companies had a simple statement, detailing exactly who the customer would be dealing with, available in just one click from the home page. All six provided contact details via clear Contact us' links, but the other information often required some seriously dedicated surfing within Corporate Information' or About us' links, particularly to find a VAT number.
The terms and conditions were assessed against how "easily, directly and permanently accessible" the information was. The regulations clearly state that information should not be "buried away" and must be available in a form that can be stored by the consumer. All sites had clear links to the terms and conditions. The language varied greatly in terms of user-friendliness, but highest marks go to Asda @t Home.