Small- and medium-sized food and equipment suppliers who sell to the public as well as the catering and hospitality trade on-line could be crippled by new EU consumer rights proposals, warns the http://www.fpb.org/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Forum of Private Business (FSB).
It claims that two articles under the forthcoming EU Consumer Rights Directive "could spell the death knell" for web-based SMEs.
Article 22a would force web-based traders to sell to almost every country in Europe while article 17 would compel them to refund postage costs if customers decided to return goods worth £35-plus (even if they are not defective) within two weeks of purchase.
The FSB says the two proposals could pose problems for SMEs in processing payments, avoiding fraudsters, complying with local regulations and predicting cash flow.
"Many independent online retailers only have the expertise and the infrastructure to sell to the domestic market, or to a select few overseas countries, and some have built themselves up around one particular product which they are only licensed to sell in a certain national market," said FPB chief executive Phil Orford .
"Forcing businesses to serve consumers in all member states and then introducing a rule which requires them to pay the shipping costs on refunded goods, to markets which they did not want to ship to in the first place, is highly unfair."
The FPB is lobbying MEPs and government ministers to oppose the problematic parts of the directive , which could come into effect as early as January 2013.