Ecommerce Europe advises European policy makers on consumer rules for tangible goods

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Ecommerce Europe participated in the third European Commission stakeholder consultation group for consumer rules for online and digital purchases. Léon Mölenberg – Senior Policy Advisor of Ecommerce Europe – presented Ecommerce Europe’s recommendations for the simplification and modernization of consumer rights for the online sale of tangible goods.

Simplification and practical solutions needed

“Consumer law is too complex to be understood by traders and consumers”, declared Léon Mölenberg. Both consumers and online retailers selling cross-border need practical solutions to real problems, therefore clear and targeted rules, not more complexity and confusion, are what Ecommerce Europe expects from the European legislators.

Need for more harmonization of the existing legal framework

Léon Mölenberg explained that the European Commission should firstly assess the functioning of the Consumer Rights Directive (applicable since June 2014) and then continue where necessary in completing the legal framework of the Directive with further consumer contract law, which should be targeted to maximum harmonize the few remaining areas that are not yet harmonized. These areas include the legal guarantee period, the period for the notification of a lack of conformity, unfair contract terms, remedies and product liability.

Common European Sales Law not the preferable solution

Ecommerce Europe believes that the Common European Sales Law (CESL) proposal – which aims to provide a European alternative to national contract laws – will lead to different rules for the same products within the Single Market. Labelled as an “optional” law for traders, CESL would operate in parallel to existing mandatory European consumer law. Ecommerce Europe believes that this law is not the preferable solution in the field of consumer rights as it would generate confusion for consumers and online shops, increase legal complexity and uncertainty and will lead to higher transaction costs.

Overload of mandatory information

Another issue raised in the presentation by Léon Mölenberg is the overload of mandatory information that the merchant has to provide when selling goods. Ecommerce Europe suggests that mandatory information should be limited only to key issues of the contract, such as identity of the trader, order procedure and confirmation, price and price components, payment, delivery time and costs, withdrawal right, complaints handling and dispute resolutions.

Next steps

The upcoming Digital Single Market strategy of the Commission will be built on different pillars, and one of these is to ensure a better access for consumers and businesses to online goods and services across Europe. The Commission is expected to propose a limited but harmonized set of key mandatory EU contractual rights applicable to domestic and cross-border online sales of tangible goods in 2015. Ecommerce Europe stays constantly in contact with the European legislators and will participate to the next stakeholders’ meetings to ensure that the interests of the sector will be taken into account.

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