An easier consumer journey when buying online Pedro Oliveira is the Legal Affairs Director at BusinessEurope The way consumer information is presented and structured can make all the difference. Using icons, Q&As, illustrations and comics can increase comprehension rates of consumers by 30%. Helping consumers to make informed choices improves their confidence which ultimately benefits companies and markets. Sixteen European business organisations joined forces to develop a voluntary tool to help companies find good ways to present their information to consumers. In July 2019, European business organisations representing a wide range of sectors, from retail, telecommunications, tourism, e-commerce to door-to-door selling, presented their voluntary tool to better inform consumers when they are shopping online. The tool, facilitated by the European Commission, was co-developed by BusinessEurope and an expert group from the European business organisations in the spirit of the ‘EU New Deal for Consumers’. Legal requirements regarding mandatory consumer information can be very detailed and difficult to understand. To conduct an online sale of, for example a piece of electronics or clothing, by law, a trader has to provide several dozens of consumer information items. And if the product falls into a special category, like pharmaceuticals, detergents or cosmetics, the amount of information is even bigger. In addition to mandatory information, traders have to stipulate standard Terms and Conditions that may also be complex and difficult to understand for consumers. Navigating through this amount of legal information is difficult both for consumers (to find or understand the right information) and for traders (to find good ways to pass on the information). This is where the recent initiative tries to fill the gap by producing a set of easy-to-use best practices on HOW to better present information. It is not about WHAT information should be given, the law journals and numerous websites and information campaigns already provide it. This is the first of its kind initiative at European level, to our knowledge, the UK Government has taken up a similar initiative, but at a national level. These recommendations primarily apply to an online context where there is no direct physical interaction with a consumer. They put forward practical ideas, such as breaking information into layers to improve accessibility and understanding, especially when the available space is limited, like on a smartphone screen. Also, it advised to use easy-to-read font size with appropriate contrast and colour of the font and the background. Tables, illustrations or Q&As can be used for listing several information items, such as breakdown of delivery costs per weight or delivery areas. It is better to use bold font for important terms or put them up front to attract consumers’ attention, for example those imposing obligations, setting deadlines or excluding or limiting rights. The voluntary tool then visualises these practical examples through a ‘Consumer Journey’ – a graphic that helps businesses understand at which stage the information should be given and how it could look like to be easily understandable, including mandatory consumer information. Companies are free to adjust the tool to their business identity and branding which is often what helps them stand out on the market. Otherwise websites would all look alike and thereby not meet customers’ specific needs and expectations. The objective now is to ensure a wide use and awareness of this tool by businesses. BusinessEurope and other participating organisations recommend their members, especially companies, to take these suggestions into account when designing their websites, and will revisit the initiative as the rules evolve.

Co-developers of the voluntary tool

Helping consumers to make informed choices

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Illustration of a ‘Consumer Journey’

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