The European Commission is proposing a new Directive on consumer rights which would eventually be implemented across all Member States, including the UK.
Known as the 'consumer acquis', the aim of the proposals is to simplify, complete and improve the existing consumer protection regulatory framework.
The Proposal aims to ensure a high level of consumer protection and to establish the real retail internal market, making it easier and less costly for traders to sell cross border and providing consumers with a larger choice and competitive prices, especially when online
Proposed EU Directives
The Community acquis on consumer protection is composed of 8 Directives, notably:
- Directive 85/577/EEC to protect the consumer in respect of contracts negotiated away from business premises (Doorstep Selling Directive)
- Directive 90/314/EEC on package travel, package holidays and package tours
- Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts
- Directive 94//47/EC on the protection of purchasers in respect of certain aspects of contracts relating to the purchase of the right to use immovable properties on a timeshare basis (Timeshare Directive)
- Directive 97/7/EC on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts (Distance Selling Directive)
- Directive 98/6/EC on consumer protection in the indication of the prices of products offered to consumers
- Directive 98/27/EC on injunctions for the protection of consumers' interests
- Directive 1999/44/EC on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees
The European Commission has conducted consultations of all interested parties on how the consumer acquis should be revised. The Commission has already presented some proposals for revision (e.g. Timeshare Directive) and others will follow in the course of the next 2 years (including possibly the Package Travel Directive).
The European Union is seeking to introduce a directive on consumer rights as part of the Commission’s its overall Consumer Policy Strategy 2007-2013 to increase consumer confidence across the Internal Market, strengthen consumers’ position in the market place, ensure that consumer concerns are taken into account, complement policies in member states, and collect consumer-related data to support legislative developments.
The Proposal aims to ensure a high level of consumer protection and to establish the real retail internal market, making it easier and less costly for traders to sell cross border and providing consumers with a larger choice and competitive prices. The proposed Consumer Rights Directive merges 4 existing EU consumer directives into one set of rules. At the same time it updates and modernises existing consumer rights, bringing them in line with technological change (m-commerce, online auctions) and strengthens provisions in the key areas where consumers have experienced problems in recent years – particularly in sales negotiated away from business premises (e.g. door to door selling).
Concerns for e-businesses
- The Better Regulation principles must be followed to ensure a light touch approach;
- A lack of co-ordination with existing e-commerce and consumer protection legislation may exist;
- A business and consumer knowledge gap has arisen about existing and working consumer protection laws
- Rigorous Regulatory Impact Assessments should be used;
- It should not be assumed that the balance of power between businesses and consumers is pro-business.
- The European Commission should address consumer (and business) issues by taking a cross-directorate general approach.
- Further evidence is needed to determine the cause of problems consumers are facing in cross-border e-commerce.
- DG Health and Consumers Proposal for a Directive on Consumer Rights