The Commission proposes new e-commerce rules
Today, the European Commission is proposing new rules, in order to strengthen and improve consumer rights in the single market. The Commission has presented a three-plonged plan:
1. Consumers should have access to goods and services in other countries
The Commission is proposing legislation to ensure that consumers seeking to buy products and services in another EU country, be it online or in person, are not discriminated against in terms of access to prices, sales or payment conditions, unless this is objectively justified for reasons such as VAT or certain public interest legal provisions.
2. Making cross-border parcel delivery more affordable and efficient
The Regulation proposed today will increase price transparency and regulatory oversight of cross-border parcel delivery services so that consumers and retailers can benefit from affordable deliveries and convenient return options even to and from peripheral regions.
Consumers and small businesses complain that problems with parcel delivery, in particular high delivery charges in cross-border shippings, prevent them from selling or buying more across the EU. Prices charged by postal operators to deliver a small parcel to another Member State are often up to 5 times higher than domestic prices, without a clear correlation to the actual costs. The Regulation will foster competition by introducing greater price transparency.
3. Increasing consumer trust in e-commerce
The proposed revision of the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation will give more powers to national authorities to better enforce consumer rights. They will be able to:
- check if websites geo-block consumers or offer after-sales conditions not respecting EU rules (e.g. withdrawal rights);
- order the immediate take-down of websites hosting scams;
- request information from domain registrars and banks to detect the identity of the responsible trader.
In case of EU-wide breaches of consumer rights, the Commission will be able to coordinate common actions with national enforcement authorities to stop these practices. It will ensure a swifter protection of consumers, while saving time and resources for Member States and businesses.
Guidance for traders and search engines
The Commission is also publishing updated guidance on unfair commercial practices to respond among others to the challenges presented by the digital world. It clarifies the application of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. For instance, any online platform that qualifies as a "trader" and promotes or sells goods, services or digital content to consumers must make sure that its own commercial practices fully comply with EU consumer law.
Platforms must state clearly that rules on unfair commercial practices do not apply to private persons selling goods, and search engines would be required to clearly distinguish paid placements from natural search results.
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