Consumer rights extended to on-line purchases

The European Parliament has voted today on a number of important amendments to improve consumer rights in the EU. The votes amend the European Commission’s proposal for a new consumer rights directive intended to update and replace a set of four existing laws regarding sales of goods and services from business-to-consumer. But the vote on the overall text was postponed in order to keep open the chance for a first reading agreement with the Council.

Robert ROCHEFORT (Modem, France), who follows the issue for ALDE at the internal market and consumer affairs committee (IMCO), highlights that the new rules will make electronic commerce more secure: “Given that purchases via the internet already cover 10% of commercial transactions in Europe and keep growing, it is time to harmonize the variety of national rules within the EU, to build trust in better regulation and to fuel our common market. By adopting the text, we will simplify the existing rules, encourage enterprises to develop their cross-border activities and adapt consumer protection rules to the rapid development of e-commerce.”

The common rules for all online and off-premises contracts foresee the right for the consumer to withdraw within 14 days anywhere in the EU and also that a model withdrawal form be available for consumers to use.

Diana WALLIS (LibDem, UK), who is responsible for the opinion on the report in the legal affairs committee, adds: “Today’s vote marks another hurdle cleared in giving more certainty for consumers and businesses when shopping cross-border. Of course there is still work to be done with the Council and we can expect substantial concessions and changes in any text.”

Jürgen CREUTZMANN (FDP, Germany), who is the ALDE coordinator at the IMCO committee, says: “ALDE nevertheless insists that some rectifications be made during the trilogue negotiations to further improve the text. The directive extends the obligation to provide a comprehensive list of pre-contractual information requirements to the consumer even to offline sales in shops. This is too burdensome for small entrepreneurs and should not be regulated in the context of this directive which mainly should address distance sales. The proposal to oblige all online traders to deliver all products to all member states and to respect local laws on consumer protection creates legal risks and could potentially ruin small traders.”

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