New consumer rules when (online) shopping

When shopping online in another EU Member State, you may not benefit from the same rights as you would at home. Since the EU aims to foster cross-border e-commerce, it wants the relevant contract laws to be aligned.

How did we get here?

It's the internet, stupid. Consumer rights and contract law for (online) shopping are based on a EU directive from 1999 when people were not shopping much online and cross-border. Also, this directive created only a minimum of harmonisation: Member States could go beyond what the EU law says. Example: For the legal guarantee period (= timeframe in which you can return a faulty product) the directive set the level at two years. Germany then went for two years while Sweden went for three and England for six years. This legal fragmentation resulted in a low level of cross-border online sales: Only 12 % of EU retailers sell online to consumers in other EU countries, while 37% sell online in their own country. You like numbers like these? There are more.

 

Why is this important for me?

This is a bit laywerish, but you can't help it: When we are talking about contract law - and we are - there are usually at least two parties involved. The current proposal keeps potential benefits for both of them:

 

What's the content?

This proposal only applies to physical goods (e.g. toys, TVs, books, ect.), there is a seperate proposal for digitale content (downloads, software, streaming). And it only applies to business-to-consumer contracts (B2C) and not to contracts between businesses (B2B).

The most important aspects:

 

What's happening with this legislation in the future?

Work in the European Parliament started in February 2016. The Internal Market and Consumer Affairs Committee is taking care of the matter and rapporteur Pascal Arimont (EPP) already presented his draft report in November 2016, the committe vote is scheduled for June 2017. At the same time, Member States are supposed to discuss the file, represented by their Ministers for Justice and Consumer Affairs. Yet, a similiar approach to harmonise contract law failed in 2014 (Member States couldn't agree on a common position) and therefore they are currently treating the digital content proposal with priority.

 

Related Bills:

Cross-border portability: Access to streaming services from abroad

Updated European data protection laws

Making products & services more accessible for disabled people

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