Online sellers don’t have to provide a telephone number to consumers
The European Court of Justice just decided that, as an online trader, you are no obligation to publish your telephone number if you choose not to.
The court was ruling on a case against Amazon where Amazon didn’t directly make their telephone number available to consumers – they offered a call back service and other means of contact such as email and chat.
The detail of the ruling is interesting – if you already publish a telephone number for consumers to contact you on then you have to make this number available to your online customers. However, if you are a new business and don’t have a telephone number for consumers, or if you’re an established business but reserve your number purely for suppliers and partners to contact you, then you don’t have to make a number available to consumers.
The ruling took into account that if it was obligatory to publiah a consumer telephone number then it would be a barrier to entry to start ups and the EU hate anything that deters competition. It was judged an unfair burden to insist that a retailer has a new line connected just so that consumer can phone them, not to mention the staffing costs.
“That provision does not imply an obligation for traders to establish a telephone or fax line, or to create a new email address to allow consumers to contact them and requires that number, the fax number or their email address to be communicated only where those traders already have those means of communication with consumers”
– European Court of Justice judgement
Of course it does make sense to have a phone number – a quick call from a consumer can often save a sale or at least save a bad review or negative feedback. Some people just hate the phone however and those small businesses who publish their mobile number don’t want calls at midnight even through some consumers think this is a perfectly reasonable time of day to telephone.
What you do have to do is provide adequate methods of contact which could be email, chat, a call back service or through marketplace messages. What you no longer need to do is to buy a second mobile phone and never switch it on just so that you can publish a number. You don’t even need an email address so long as you make reasonable ways for consumers to contact you available.