EU bans pre-ticked boxes on travel websites

Kathryn Liston

EU singles out airline websites - PA

A Europe-wide ban on pre-ticked boxes that require consumers to opt out of buying services on websites has been approved by the European Commission.

The new rules will make it illegal for companies to make customers untick boxes for unwanted services such as travel insurance or car hire when buying online.

The EU said it specifically wanted to outlaw this practice and gave the the example of buying an airline ticket on a website which offered these extras.

Under the new proposals, approved by EU ministers in Luxembourg, online retailers will have to disclose the total cost of a product including any extra fees included.

Customers will be exempt from additional costs if businesses fail to "properly inform" them of extra costs before an order is placed. They will only need to opt in to any extra services they wish to buy.

A statement said: "With the new directive, pre-ticked boxes will be banned across the European Union."

Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer watchdog Which?, told the Telegraph: "It's about time selling by stealth was banned. Household budgets are under enough pressure without people having to keep an eye out for unwanted extras when shopping online."

Also under the new rules, the cooling off period for withdrawing from a sales contract has doubled from seven days to 14 days and refunds must be made within 14 days.

Companies will also not be allowed to charge more than the extra cost of processing a sale when customers pay by credit card. Businesses operating telephone hotlines will only be allowed to charge basic call rates.

Countries have two years to implement the new rules.