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European Parliament extends consumer rights to on-line purchases

March 24, 2011 5:30 PM
Originally published by Surrey County Council Lib Dems

The European Parliament has voted today on a number of important amendments to improve consumer rights in the EU. The votes amend the European Commission's proposal for a new consumer rights directive intended to update and replace a set of four existing laws regarding sales of goods and services from business-to-consumer. The vote on the overall text was postponed in order to keep open the chance for a first reading agreement with the Council.

French ALDE (Lib Dem) MEP Robert ROCHEFORT, who is on the European Parliament's internal market and consumer affairs committee (IMCO), says that the new rules will make internet shopping safer: "Given that purchases via the internet already cover 10% of commercial transactions in Europe and keep growing, it is time to harmonize the variety of national rules within the EU, to build trust in better regulation and to fuel our common market. By adopting the text, we will simplify the existing rules, encourage enterprises to develop their cross-border activities and adapt consumer protection rules to the rapid development of e-commerce."

The common rules for all online and off-premises contracts give consumers the right to withdraw from the purchase within 14 days anywhere in the EU and also require that a model withdrawal form is available for consumers to use.

Diana WALLIS (LibDem, UK), the ALDE spokesperson on the legal affairs committee, adds: "Today's vote marks another hurdle cleared in giving more certainty for consumers and businesses when shopping cross-border. Of course there is still work to be done with the Council and we can expect substantial concessions and changes in any text."

However, Jürgen CREUTZMANN (Germany), the ALDE spokesperson on the IMCO committee, says: "ALDE still wants some changes made during negotiations to improve the text. The draft directive extends the obligation to provide a comprehensive list of pre-contractual information requirements to the consumer to include offline sales in shops. This is too burdensome for small entreprises - this directive should just apply to distant sales. The proposal to require all online traders to deliver all products to all member states and to respect local laws on consumer protection creates legal risks and could potentially ruin some small traders."