Last week, the Justice and Home Affairs Council took a step back that goes against creation of a real EU Single Market, when it adopted its position on the proposed Directive on contract rules for the sales of goods. This Directive was supposed to fully harmonize B2C contract rules for the sales of goods in the EU or, in other words, reduce legal fragmentation in this field, one of the biggest barriers to cross-border e-commerce. However, the Council’s position fails in achieving the full harmonization approach originally proposed by the European Commission, and that online merchants and Ecommerce Europe have been asking for.
In fact, the Council’s position jeopardizes the creation of a real Single Market by only achieving minimum harmonization on several important aspects of B2C contracts, since Member States may keep or adopt more consumer protective rules. For instance, EU countries would be allowed to maintain differences in terms of length of the legal guarantee period. Such an approach is not only against the interests of online merchants but also against the interests of European consumers, since it will not contribute to clarify and simplify businesses’ and consumers’ rights and obligations.
Moreover, the Council’s text even introduces new worrying elements, which were not originally proposed by the Commission, such as merchants pushed to provide a guarantee on the durability of goods and security updates on smart goods they sell. These elements represent an unreasonable burden for the e-commerce industry and will result in higher costs that European online merchants will have to bear in an increasingly competitive global market, with Europe in the middle of two powerful e-commerce markets, China and U.S.
In this sense, Ecommerce Europe believes that the Council’s position goes too far, and we urge EU negotiators to agree on a more reasonable approach on the Sales of Goods Directive during the upcoming inter-institutional negotiations. Easy and harmonized rules mean easier compliance and, ultimately, better consumer protection. Only such an approach can ensure the fundamental elements that the European e-commerce sector needs in order to flourish.