Global menu

Our global pages

Close

European Commission issues proposal on a Consumer Rights Directive

  • Latvia
  • Other

20-01-2009

Author: Pavles Tjuševs

BLT - British Latvian Trade, The magazine on the British Chamber of Commerce in Latvia, Spring 2008

The European Commission published a proposal for a new EU Consumer Rights framework Directive on 8 October 2008. The new proposal is aimed at improving consumer confidence and quality of legislation in cross-border trade. The proposal will simplify the four existing EU consumer rights directives into one unified set of rules. The directive focuses on the pre-contractual information, cancellation rights on distance sales, rules on delivery and passing of risk, unfair contract terms, etc.

Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said: “With household budgets under strain and purchasing power at the top of citizens’ concerns, it has never been more important for consumers to be able to compare prices and shop around to get the best value on offer. These new rules are designed to strengthen protection and close the loopholes in key areas that are undermining consumer trust. The Single Market has the potential to deliver a lot more choice and opportunities for consumers. But for that we need an EU-wide safety net of rights so consumers have the security they need to shop around with peace of mind”.

In this publication the author provides the readers with the novelties in the sphere of consumer protection on a pan-European level.

The current rules

The current EU consumer protection rules stem from four EU Directives – Unfair contract terms[1], Sales and Guarantees[2], Distance Selling[3], and Doorstep Selling[4] which contain certain minimum requirements. Whereas the Member States over the years have added rules in an uncoordinated manner, there is a need to simplify the existing legislation and to avoid situation where EU consumer contract laws represent a mix of 27 sets of differing rules for example.

The new proposal

The new proposal[5] is aimed at improving consumer confidence and quality of legislation in cross-border trade. The proposal will simplify the four existing EU consumer rights directives into one unified set of rules. The Consumer Rights Directive is designed to be a “maximum harmonization” directive, meaning that EU member states will not be able to introduce provisions going beyond its terms.

The Consumer Rights Directive (“Directive”) concerns the B2C sale of goods contracts and will be applicable to all sales, whether made in-store, “off-premises” or at a distance. The Directive strengthens provisions in key areas where consumers have experienced problems and adapts legislation to recent technological developments and new sales methods, such as media commerce and online auctions.

The main requirements of the Directive include:

Pre-contractual information: traders are under obligation to render consumers with a concise set of information requirements to facilitate the consumer to make an informed choice. Such requirements are analogous to the provisions contained in the Distance Selling Directive. In a situation where contract is made in a medium that has limited space, the main descriptions of the good or service must be provided in that medium; whereas other information must be provided by different suitable medium accessible to the consumer.
Cancellation Rights on Distance Sales: the Directive introduces an EU-wide cooling-off period of 14 days. The exceptions available to the cooling-off period largely reflect those available under the Distance Selling Directive. The Directive also establishes a standard withdrawal form for use by consumers wishing to cancel a contract.
Consumer Rights specific to Sales Contracts: the Directive establishes provisions in key contractual areas, some of which are presently not regulated at EU level, such as:
Rules on Delivery and Passing of Risk: a trader must deliver the goods or services to the consumer within 30 calendar days from the day the contract is concluded. In the event of delay or non-delivery, the consumer will be entitled to a full refund within 7 days from the proposed day of delivery. The trader will bear the risk in the goods until they are received by the consumer. The risk passes at the time delivery was supposed to happen if the consumer does not take reasonable steps to take delivery of the goods.
Commercial Guarantees: the provisions largely represent those provided under the Sale of Goods and Consumer Guarantees Directive but have been altered to make clear consumer's rights and harmonise rights regarding defective goods.
Unfair Contract Terms: the Directive establishes a black list of terms that will be prohibited across the EU, and a grey list of contract terms presumed to be unfair unless proved to the contrary.
This proposal will be submitted to the European Parliament and Council for debate. Once approved, implementation will be required within 2 years of its publication in the Official Journal.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts;

[2] Council Directive 99/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 May 1999 on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees

[3] Directive 97/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 May 1997 on the Protection of Consumers in respect of Distance Contracts;

[4] Council Directive 85/577/EEC of 20 December 1985 to protect the consumer in respect of contracts negotiated away from business premises

[5] Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on consumer rights {SEC (2008) 2544} {SEC(2008) 2545} {SEC (2008) 2547} /*COM/2008/0614 final - COD 2008/0196*/

In this publication the author provides the readers with the novelties in the sphere of consumer protection on a pan-European level.

< Go back

Print Friendly and PDF
Subscribe to e-briefings