Shoppers will now get more time to return an item purchased online after the Consumer Rights Directive (CRD), which was passed by the European Union in October 2011, came into force last week.

The cooling-off period, during which you can cancel an order without giving any reason and ask for a refund, has been extended to 14 calendar days from seven working days. The 14-day limit starts from the moment you receive the item, rather than from the time of purchase, which was previously the case.

The new rules also state that if a seller doesn't clearly inform the consumer about the right to cancel the purchases, the return period will be extended to a year. The rules apply to digital goods as well, such as music, films and books. But in those cases a customer loses the right to cancel a purchase the moment he begins downloading the item.

Meanwhile, companies are now required to refund customers for the product within 14 days of cancellation, including the costs of delivery.

"What we want to see are empowered, savvy shoppers who know their rights, look around for the best deals and drive competition", consumer minister Jenny Willott said.

The new laws also prevent companies from charging premium rates for customer service calls after the sale. Previously, some companies have charged up to £0.41 GBP (€0.51 EUR / $0.70 USD) per minute for calls by customers.

Further changes in the new regulations include a ban on pre-ticked boxes for payment of additional services, such as travel insurance when booking a flight ticket online, and a ban on all hidden fees and charges, making it mandatory for sellers to disclose all the information upfront.

In the UK, the new rules are being implemented through the Consumer Contracts Regulations, that are separate from the consumer rights bill which is currently going through Parliament.