Actualidad Costa Rica

Consumer protection in the e-commerce environment

Decree 40703-MEIC

Costa Rica’s Executive has reformed the regulation on the Competition & Consumer Defense Law, Decree 37899-MEIC, providing greater clarity and legal certainty to all participants in the e-commerce market.

The amendment adds a specific chapter on consumer protection in e-commerce and is ruled by the principle of functional equivalence. This puts the safeguards for information and transactions conducted by e-commerce on an equal footing with those incumbent on other forms of trading.

It brings into the regulations a series of obligations relating to the information the consumer must be given by the merchant: the merchant’s identity, the goods and services offered, the terms and conditions of the transaction, the confirmation process and the total price. On this last point, the merchant must provide information about any additional costs associated with the provision of the good or service.

When a merchant pre-selects any service, or customers are automatically signed up to successive service provisions or renewals, the new regulation defines it as mis-selling if the subscription that is bundled into a sale is not in the consumer’s interest. In order not to incur such conduct, the merchant must ask the consumer for explicit consent in a format that can be proven subsequently to prove the subscription was voluntary.

The regulation also obliges merchants to send consumers, by e-mail or another form of communication previously agreed upon by the parties, a full, accurate and permanent receipt of the transaction.

It also regulates advertising targeting minors and vulnerable or disadvantaged consumers, warning that advertising must not undermine their wellbeing or dignity.

Finally, the regulations specify that the consumer can choose whether they wish to receive commercial messages or not, and that the merchant must refrain from sending messages by any electronic means when this has not been previously requested by the consumer.