EU Modernises Consumer Rights

The EU is improving the protection of consumers' rights.

Member states' ambassadors meeting in the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee agreed today on the Council's position on a draft directive which amends four existing EU directives protecting consumers' interests.

The draft directive covers a wide range of topics. It amends the unfair commercial practices directive 2005/29/EC, the consumer rights directive 2011/83/EU, the unfair contract terms directive 93/13/EEC and the price indication directive 98/6/EC. It was proposed together with a proposal on representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers as part of the 'New Deal for Consumers' launched by the Commission in 2017.

The directive provides for:

  • the enhanced harmonisation of rules on penalties for these directives, provided that the criteria to be taken into account for the imposition of such penalties are indicative and non-exhaustive, that some restrictions and options apply to some of these texts and without prejudice to regulation no 2017/2394 on consumer protection and cooperation. Under the directive, national authorities will in particular have the power to impose a fine of at least up to 4 % of a trader's turnover for widespread cross-border infringements when enforcing the unfair commercial practices directive, the consumer rights directive and the unfair contract terms directive;
  • a right to individual remedies for consumers when they are harmed by unfair commercial practices, such as aggressive marketing, and provided that these remedies are proportionate, effective and do not affect the application of other remedies available to consumers under EU or national law;
  • more transparency for consumers in online marketplaces. The directive requires online marketplaces to clearly inform consumers about: (a) the main parameters determining ranking of the different offers, (b) whether the contract is concluded with a trader or an individual, (c) whether consumer protection legislation applies and (d) which trader (third party supplier or online marketplace) is responsible for ensuring consumer rights related to the contract (such as the right of withdrawal or legal guarantee). In addition, the directive obliges digital applications such as online marketplaces, comparison tools, app stores and search engines to indicate to their users which search results contain 'paid placements', i.e. where third parties pay for higher ranking, or 'paid inclusion', i.e. where third parties pay to be included in the list of search results;
  • the protection of consumers in respect of 'free' digital services, namely digital services for which consumers do not pay money but provide personal data, such as: cloud storage, social media and email accounts;
  • the removal of disproportionate burdens imposed on businesses by existing legislation, such as outdated means of communication;
  • clarifications regarding member states' freedom to adopt rules to protect the legitimate interests of consumers with regard to some particularly aggressive or misleading marketing or selling practices in the context of off-premises sales;
  • clarifications regarding the way misleading marketing of 'dual quality' products should be dealt with by member states.