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Russia Set to Regulate Online Shopping
Eugenia Lomakina reviews the latest amendments to statutory consumer protection law and relevant case law.
Who is affected?
As amended, the Russian Federation Law On Protection of Consumer Rights defines 'owners of aggregators of information about goods and services' as legal entities or sole traders owning programs, applications or websites that simultaneously enable consumers to:
- view sellers' or providers' offers to enter into product purchase or service agreements;
- make purchase or service agreements with the sellers or providers; and
- pay for ordered goods or services in advance by wiring the funds to the aggregator owners.
The literal interpretation exempts:
- online platforms that do not offer all of the three options (e.g., such as enable contracting but do not permit payment); and
- platforms aggregating info about goods and services marketed by private individuals only.
What are the new rules?
First, aggregator owners must identify themselves and their sellers/providers, giving the names, addresses, business hours and registration data.
Sellers' and providers' profiles must either be placed on the aggregator websites or hyperlinked from their respective websites. Inaccurate and/or incomplete information about sellers/providers (or none at all) will make the aggregator owners liable to the customers.
Second, aggregator owners are liable for inaccurate or incomplete product information if they choose to modify sellers' original product descriptions.
Third, although sellers and providers are generally liable for improper quality of goods and services, aggregator owners collecting customers' payments must refund on demand if the goods are not delivered (or the services are not provided) when due and the customers cancel the orders or contracts. The law permits aggregator owners to deny refunds if they prove that the customers accepted delivery.
In light of the new rules and existing case law, all product aggregator owners (including exempt) should:
- thoroughly review their website content. Every customer must be absolutely certain as to whether they are contracting the aggregator or the seller/provider. General info matters as much as user agreement language;
- make sure that the websites contain updated statutory information at all times;
- review (and revise as necessary) deals with the sellers and providers whose products and/or services info they are aggregating. In light of the new rules, aggregator owners may want either to forego collection of customers' payments or thoroughly rethink payment terms and conditions to eliminate risks of customer claims.