The EU Consumer Rights Directive was passed by the EU in October 2011. The Consumer rights directive comes into force in all EU member states in 2014. The CRD aims to simplify consumer rights in certain important areas, mostly relating to buying and selling. From 13th June 2014, these laws come into force. Read our quick guide from Trevor Flack, Contact Centre Manager at Spark Response, on what these laws mean for the telephony side of your contact centre, customer service and sales teams.

1. Why are these laws coming into force?

In short, the new directive is designed to offer a fairer deal to consumers, to offer increased protection under distance selling regulations. The new directive also brings equality in regulation across all EU Member States.

2. What are the key things I need to know?

This guide covers the telephony changes which are taking place, it’s worth reading the full guide from www.gov.uk to learn the full implications.

These rules apply to any business which operates under the distance selling regulations, such as mail order and eCommerce businesses, or any business which does not trade directly in person with its customers.

All calls to customer support lines, for product queries, customer service, or general help relating to a previous purchase, must not cost the consumer any more than a standard geographic or mobile rate. This means the following types of non geographic numbers are NOT permitted:

  • Premium rate services such as 0871, 0872, 0873, and any numbers starting 09
  • Non premium rate but service charge numbers such as 0843, 0844, 0845
  • Numbers which start 0870

The types of numbers that ARE permitted for customer service include:

  • Geographic rate numbers such as 01, 02, and 03 numbers such as the recently launched 0333 number
  • Any number which is free to call from a landline or mobile, such as 0800 or 0808
  • Any mobile number beginning 07

Whilst the above rules apply to customer service calls, different rules apply to dedicated sales lines. For any dedicated sales lines, retailers ARE permitted to continue using premium rate numbers, or those which do incur a charge to the consumer if they so wish.

3. Are there exceptions?

Yes. There are various exceptions to these rules, but for full clarification, please refer to the full government guidance found here. 

If the call is for technical support, such as for PC or hardware, then a retailer can still utilise a chargeable number such as 0845, 09 or 0871 etc. providing this number is made clear to be technical support only and not for customer support relating to a purchase or contract. The rules do not apply to the following sectors:

  • Financial services, banking or insurance
  • Gambling
  • Construction, or the sale of immovable property
  • package travel and timeshare
  • roundsmen
  • purchases from vending machines
  • single telecommunications connections such as public payphones and public wifi, including that provided in establishments such as cafés

4. In practical terms, what should I do?

We’ve listed a few areas you may want to check, to ensure your business complies with the new rules:

1. Does your contact centre operate an IVR which directs to sales and customer service via the same number?  Is this number an 0845 or 0871 number which incurs a charge above standard geographic rates? If so, you’ll have to set up a separate 01,02,03 or freephone number for the customer service team.

2. If the above applies, how do you publicise this new number to your customers? What materials does the telephone number appear on? It’s worth checking obvious and non obvious things such as:

  • Company websites
  • Social media profiles (all of them!)
  • Blogs
  • Collates on customer mail orders
  • Returns forms included in mail order deliveries
  • Any direct mail literature, such as catalogues, flyers or leaflets
  • Third party sites such as affiliates, directories, or others
  • Any internal company literature which may be used externally with customers such as letterheads or compliment slips
  • Email footers of company employees and customer service teams

If you’d like any further help or advice on the EU consumer Rights Directive, and how it might affect your contact centre, please contact us.

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