EC lays the ground work for future action in EU consumer law
Yesterday, the European Commission presents an analysis of EU consumer and marketing rules. This report will serve as a basis for further improving the legal framework for consumers and businesses.
The results show that while European consumers already benefit from strong consumer rights, there is room for improvement for instance when it comes to enforcing these rights or making them fit for the digital age. An update of the rules should also ensure more legal clarity for businesses operating cross-border.
Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice and Consumers said: "European consumers are amongst the best protected in the world. They benefit from strong consumer rights whether they buy in their own country or cross-border. We need to make sure that these rights can also be properly enforced and are brought up-to-speed with the digital age. With the upcoming proposals we will make sure these rights become a reality online and offline. ”
EU consumer rules have contributed to improving consumer confidence: in 2016, nearly 6 in 10 consumers (58%) felt they are well protected when buying something online from another Member State, compared to only one in ten (10%) in 2003. 7 in 10 people reported that they have benefitted from the right to a free-of-charge minimum two year guarantee for goods.
The Commission analysis identifies the following issues that should be addressed:
- Limited redress possibilities: Few countries offer consumers an efficient civil law remedy in case they were victims of unfair commercial practices.In some countries, business and consumer organisations cannot bring injunctions to signal a wrongdoing. Member States continue to have diverse approaches on collective redress.
- Diverging enforcement across Member States: The level of sanctions for the infringement of EU consumer law by a company varies significantly between Member States, resulting in different levels of consumer protection and a lack of level playing field for businesses.
- Rights not fully adapted to the digital world: When signing up to non-paying online services (e.g. cloud services, social media), consumers don't benefit from the same pre-contractual information rights or the right of withdrawal from the contract, as they would when paying for such services. Consumers also experience a lack of transparency of online intermediaries, which makes it difficult for consumers to claim their rights.
- Low awareness of consumer rights: Only four in ten people (41%) knew they have the right to a free repair or replacement if their goods are defective and only one third (33%) knew that they do not need to pay for or return products they did not ask for.
How will the Commission take this forward?
The Commission will examine how to follow up in the following areas of EU Consumer rules:
- granting victims of unfair commercial practices the right to contractual and/or extra-contractual remedies (such as right to terminate the contract and to receive a refund of the price paid);
- extending protection under the Consumer Rights Directive (e.g. pre-contractual information and right of withdrawal) to online services for which the consumers pay with their data;
- making sure that consumers using online platforms (marketplaces) are informed whether they are buying from a professional trader or another consumer and whether they benefit from consumer protection rules;
- strengthening and better harmonising the level of sanctions for breaches to consumer law;
- improving the injunctions procedure for the protection of consumers;
- Analysing the results of the ongoing assessment of collective redress across the EU.
To examine the opportunity for possible changes in legislation, the Commission will in 2017:
- publish an "Inception Impact Assessment" outlining the scope and options for future legislative action;
- hold an online public consultation;
- prepare an impact assessment, and, based on its findings, present a legislative proposal.
Ongoing Commission action
The Commission is already working on updating some of the Consumer rules:
The Commission updated its guidance on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, which is the legal basis for many coordinated consumer rights enforcement actions at EU level.
The Commission proposed modern digital contract rules (IP/15/6264), which, once adopted, will provide clear rules to better protect consumer when they buy digital content. It will also align the common rules regarding remedies.
Regarding better enforcement, the Commission made a proposal to strengthen the cooperation between national consumer protection bodies (CPC) and the Commission (IP/16/1887).
As part of the Commission's Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) programme, the Commission regularly reviews EU laws to identify excessive regulatory burdens, overlaps, gaps, inconsistencies and/or obsolete measures which may have appeared over time.
In this framework, the Commission assessed six horizontal consumer and marketing directives: the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD), the Sales and Guarantees Directive, the Unfair Contract Terms Directive, the Price Indication Directive, the Misleading and Comparative Advertising Directive, the Injunctions Directive. The analysis consisted of a survey of more than 23 000 consumers from across the EU, mystery shopping exercises, interviews with national consumer bodies (organisations, business associations, authorities, ministries) and behavioural experiments
In parallel and linked to the Fitness Check, the Commission carried out an evaluation of the Consumer Rights Directive as required by its Article 30.
For more information
Factsheet: EU consumer law
Executive summary of the Fitness Check report
Executive summary of the evaluation of the Consumer Rights Directive
The full reports and the supporting external studies published yesterday are available here
Latest News from
EU clears way for the EU Digital COVID Certificate15/06/2021 09:25:00
The Presidents of the three EU institutions, the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission yesterday attended the official signing ceremony for the Regulation on the EU Digital COVID Certificate, marking the end of the legislative process.
Council agrees on new rules for cross-border energy infrastructure14/06/2021 16:48:00
The Council recently (11 June 2021) reached a general approach on the revision of the Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) Regulation.
Council approves conclusions on an EU renovation wave14/06/2021 15:25:00
The Council recently (11 June 2021) approved conclusions on a renovation wave that repairs the economy now, and creates green buildings for the future.
Council approves EU-UK agreement on fishing opportunities14/06/2021 13:25:00
The Council recently (11 June 2021) approved the agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom on fishing opportunities for 2021 and, for deep-sea stocks, for 2021 and 2022.
EU-U.S Joint statement on the humanitarian emergency in Tigray14/06/2021 09:25:00
EU-U.S Joint statement given recently (10 June 2021) on the humanitarian emergency in Tigray.
Talent Partnerships: Commission launches new initiative to address EU skills shortages and improve migration cooperation with partner countries11/06/2021 16:33:00
Today, the Commission is launching Talent Partnerships, a key initiative under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum that will help to address skills shortages in the European Union and to strengthen mutually-beneficial partnerships on migration with third countries.
Central America and Mexico: EU reaffirms support with €18.5 million in humanitarian and development aid11/06/2021 15:25:00
The EU yesterday announced at the 'Solidarity event for forcibly displaced persons and host communities in Central America and Mexico', that it will allocate €18.5 million in aid. Of this sum, €12 million represents humanitarian funding to Central America, and €6.5 million constitutes development assistance.
Council endorses new EU strategy on adaptation to climate change11/06/2021 14:38:00
The Council yesterday approved conclusions endorsing a new strategy that outlines a long-term vision for the EU to become a climate-resilient society that is fully adapted to the unavoidable impacts of climate change by 2050.
Child Labour: Statement by the European Commission and the High Representative on the World Day against Child Labour11/06/2021 13:25:00
Child Labour: Statement given by the European Commission and the High Representative on the World Day against Child Labour.
Education: EU increases its commitment to Global Partnership for Education with a pledge of €700 million for 2021-202711/06/2021 12:38:00
Ahead of the G7 Summit, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen yesterday announced that the European Union is pledging €700 million for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to help transform education systems for more than one billion girls and boys in up to 90 countries and territories.