What information should I publish on my Internet page, if I am a trader? Obligation to provide general information before concluding off-premises and distance contracts or when providing information society services.

Author: Boyana Boyadzhieva

As a result of technological advancements and the proliferation of online trading platforms, the world has witnessed a remarkable shift in consumer behavior and perception of commerce. Online shopping offers unparalleled convenience and accessibility: with just a few clicks, consumers are able to browse the wide range of products or services on the platform and purchase the ones they have chosen, at any time of the day and from anywhere in the world. This has made e-commerce the most preferred way to shop, which in turn has led more and more traders to adapt to the changing environment by establishing an online presence in order to remain competitive in the market. The shift from buying and selling in a physical store to buying and selling online has also necessitated legal regulation to ensure adequate consumer protection and fair commercial practices.

In Bulgaria, the legal framework that governs consumer protection is made up of numerous normative and sub-normative acts, but for the purposes of this article, we will mention only two of them: the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and the Electronic Commerce Act (ECA).

One of the most significant obligations of the trader, arising from the above two legislative acts, is the obligation to provide information to enable consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing or ordering goods and services from the trader’s website. The provision of this information will also ensure transparency, which in turn will promote consumer trust and confidence in the trader.

In this article, we will look at what information a trader is obliged to disclose to consumers in two different circumstances:

1) Before the consumer is bound by a distance or off-premises contract, or by a similar offer to conclude a contract pursuant to Article 47 of the CPA;

2) When information society services are provided, pursuant to Article 4 of the ECA.

But before that, it is necessary to give a few definitions:

In the Additional Provisions of the CPA, in particular, § 13, the term “consumer” is defined as any natural person who acquires goods or uses services that are not intended for the performance of a commercial or professional activity, and any natural person who, as a party to a contract under this Act, acts outside the scope of his commercial or professional activity.

On the other hand, a ‘trader‘ is any natural or legal person who sells or offers for sale goods, provides services, or concludes a contract with a consumer as part of his trade or profession in the public or private sector, and any person who acts on his behalf and for his account.

According to Article 44 of the CPA, an off-premises contract is any contract between a trader and a consumer:

1. concluded in the simultaneous physical presence of the trader and the consumer at a place other than the trader’s business premises;

2. where the consumer has made an offer to conclude a contract in the same circumstances as those referred to in point 1;

3. concluded at the trader’s business premises or by means of a means of distance communication, immediately after personal and individual contact has been made with the consumer at a place other than the trader’s business premises, in the simultaneous physical presence of the trader and the consumer;

4. concluded during a journey organized by the trader with the purpose or effect of selling or promoting the sale of goods or services to the consumer.

Pursuant to Article 45 of the CPA, a distance contract is any contract concluded between a trader and a consumer as part of an organized distance selling system or the provision of services at a distance without the simultaneous physical presence of the trader and the consumer, through the exclusive use of one or more means of distance communication until the conclusion of the contract, including at the time of conclusion of the contract.

1) Obligation to provide information before the consumer is bound by a distance contract or an off-premises contract or a similar offer to conclude a contract, pursuant to Article 47(1) of the CPA.

– This provision is applicable where the possibility of concluding a contract of sale can be carried out outside the trader’s business premises or at a distance. According to it, the trader is obliged to provide the consumer in a clear and comprehensible manner with certain information which forms an integral part of the contract. The information required by law is most often placed on the trader’s website in Bulgarian in the form of General Terms and Conditions, and we recommend that all the information is consolidated and separated in a specific place on the website.

1. The main characteristics of the goods or services

– The trader must provide accurate and detailed descriptions of the products, including specifications, features, and any limitations or potential risks associated with the product or service.

2. Information about the trader and his contact details

– In a prominent place on its website, the trader must provide accurate and up-to-date information about its business, namely: the trader’s name; the trader’s registered office and address, telephone number and e-mail address; the address of the place where the trader carries on business. Clear disclosure of this information helps consumers to verify the legitimacy of the trader.

3. The final price of the goods or services including all taxes and charges

– If, due to the nature of the goods or services, the price cannot be reasonably calculated in advance, the trader must clearly state how it is calculated. The legislation also provides clarity in other possible situations:

– Where applicable, the final price of the goods or services shall include any additional transport, delivery or postage costs and, where these costs cannot reasonably be calculated in advance, the fact that such additional costs may be payable by the consumer.

– In the case of an open-ended contract or a contract containing a subscription, the final price shall include all costs for the billing period.

– Where such contracts provide for billing at a fixed tariff, the final price shall also include all monthly costs.

– Where the total costs cannot reasonably be calculated in advance, information on how the price is calculated shall be provided.

– Where applicable, it shall be stated that the price has been individualized on the basis of automated decision-making.

4. The costs of using the means of distance communication to conclude the contract, where these costs are calculated on a basis other than the basic tariff.

5. Delivery and performance

– The trader must provide information on what the terms of payment, delivery, performance, and the date on which the trader undertakes to deliver the goods or perform the services.

6. Right of withdrawal and return policy

– Where the consumer has a right of withdrawal from the contract, the conditions, time limit, and manner of exercising it shall be specified. The trader must also provide the consumer with the standard form for exercising the right of withdrawal in accordance with Annex 6 of the CPA.
– It is important that the trader clearly indicates the circumstances in which the consumer must bear the costs of returning the goods in the event of exercising the right of withdrawal, or, if the goods cannot be returned by post in the usual way due to their nature, the costs of returning them. Where no right of withdrawal is provided for under Article 57 of the CPA, the trader must inform the consumer in writing that he has no right of withdrawal or, where applicable, indicate the circumstances in which the consumer loses his right of withdrawal.

– It is recommended that the trader also provides information on how and under what circumstances refunds will be made, including the method and timing of refunds and any potential deductions or charges.

7. Warranties and after-sales service

– The trader should include a reminder of the existence of a legal guarantee of conformity of the goods, digital content, and digital services.

– Where applicable, the availability of after-sales assistance, after-sales service, and commercial warranty and their terms shall be indicated.

8. Codes of good commercial practice

– In certain cases, the trader must indicate whether codes of good commercial practice are available, where they can be found, and how a copy can be obtained.

9. Term of the contract

– The trader must provide the duration of the contract, where applicable, or if the contract is open-ended or contains an automatic renewal clause, the conditions for termination.
– Here it is also important to specify the minimum period for which the consumer has obligations under the contract.

10. Deposits or other financial guarantees

– Where applicable, it should be indicated whether deposits or other financial guarantees, which are paid or given by the consumer at the request of the trader, need to be provided and what their terms are.

11. The functionality of goods containing digital elements

– Where the trader provides goods containing digital items, digital content, and/or digital services, their functionality, including applicable technical protection measures, should be indicated.
– The interoperability of goods containing digital items, digital content, and digital services with certain types of hardware and software should also be indicated where known to the trader or reasonably expected to be known to the trader.

12. Access to out-of-court dispute resolution

– Where applicable, the possibility of using out-of-court dispute resolution and redress procedures in which the trader participates and the conditions for accessing them shall be indicated.

13. Handling of complaints

– The trader shall indicate the means provided by the trader for handling complaints, where applicable.

2) The information society service provider shall provide unhindered, direct, and permanent access to the following information to the recipients of the services and to the competent authorities, in accordance with Article 4(1) of the ECA.

For the purposes of the ECA, a ‘service provider‘ is a natural or legal person who provides information society services, and a ‘service recipient‘ is a natural or legal person who uses information society services for professional or other purposes, including for the purposes of seeking information or providing access to information.

Here, in contrast to the CPA, legal persons also receive legal protection.

– Under this legislation, e-commerce is the provision of ‘information society services– that is, services, including the provision of commercial communications, which are generally remunerated and provided remotely by electronic means following an explicit statement by the recipient of the service, as well as online intermediary services that meet each of the following requirements:

(a) constitute information society services, that is to say, any service normally provided for remuneration, at a distance, by electronic means, and at the individual request of the recipient of the services;
(b) enable business users to offer goods or services to consumers so as to facilitate the entry into a direct commercial relationship between those business users and consumers, irrespective of the place of final conclusion of the transaction;

(c) are made available to business users on the basis of a contractual relationship between the provider of those services and the business users offering goods or services to consumers.

– In this case, the provider of information society services is obliged to provide unhindered, direct, and permanent access to the following information to the recipients of the services and to the competent authorities:

1. Information about the trader and his contact details

– The provider must provide his name or business name; his permanent address or registered office and address for business purposes; the address at which he carries out his activities, if different from the address for business purposes; his contact details, including telephone and e-mail address, for direct and timely contact with him; his registration details in a commercial or other public register.

2. Information on the body supervising its activities

– This is applicable where this activity is subject to a notification, registration, or licensing regime.

3. Information about the chamber, professional union, or organization of which the provider is a member or registered

– This information is required where the provider is engaged in a regulated profession. In this case, the provider should also provide information on the professional title and the country in which it is granted, as well as a reference to the applicable provisions on the right to practice the trade or profession and guidance on how to access them.

4. VAT

– The provider must provide an indication if he is registered under the Value Added Tax Act.

5. The final price

– Where prices are quoted for the provision of information society services, the provider must indicate them in a clear and comprehensible manner, and it must be stated whether the prices include taxes, fees, and charges which form the final price.

6. Other information provided for a legal act.

3) Data protection

And although these two provisions do not mention any information on data protection, we cannot fail to mention that every trader/provider is obliged to provide a comprehensive privacy policy on personal data in accordance with the Data Protection Act and Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, also referred to as the GDPR.

This policy must describe the type of personal information collected, and how it is used, stored, and protected. The trader should also indicate whether third parties have access to the data and explain the use of cookies or other tracking technologies on its website.

The digital age has revolutionized the way we perceive commerce, offering a world of possibilities at our fingertips. However, with this has come the need for good legal regulation to ensure consumer protection.

One of the most essential requirements for a trader is the obligation to provide transparent general information on its website, such as contact details, company information, product descriptions, product return policies and conditions, secure payment methods, dispute resolution processes, and compliance with legislation. In this way, traders can promote trust, facilitate informed decision-making and ultimately ensure a positive consumer experience. Adopting these practices not only benefits consumers but will also contribute to the long-term success and reputation of businesses in the digital marketplace.

This material is prepared by Boyana Boyadzhieva. It does not constitute a legal opinion and cannot be interpreted as individual consultation on any concrete facts or circumstances. The advice of an intellectual property specialist should be obtained for specific questions and situations. For more information on the above-mentioned issues and individual consultations, please contact KrasimiraKadieva law office at 00359 882 308 670 or make an inquiry using the contact form on this website. Boyana Boyadjieva is a legal associate at the law firm. She holds a Master’s degree in Intellectual Property Law from the Queen Mary University of London. Prior to joining the team of the law firm, Boyana interned at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). Her professional interests are related to intellectual property, data protection, e-commerce, and contract law, and regularly attends conferences, practical courses, seminars, and webinars in these areas of law. She is fluent in English.

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