EU institutions reached a preliminary agreement on the Omnibus Directive

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The EU negotiators reached an informal agreement in trialogue on the Proposal for a Directive on Better enforcement and modernization of EU consumer rules (the so-called Omnibus Directive). The legislative proposal for the Directive was published on 11 April 2018 as part of the European Commission’s New Deal for Consumers package. 

 Even though the text of the agreement is not yet available, some elements have been already disclosed.   EU policymakers agreed that online marketplaces (for example Amazon) and comparison services (for example Skyscanner) will have to disclose the main parameters that determine the ranking of offers on the websites as a result of a consumer’s search query. In addition, information on who is selling a certain product or service will have to be clearly displayed to consumers before they purchase a product or service. The agreement also covers online reviews and any misleading statements about reviews, without taking reasonable measures to ensure their accuracy, are now added to the “blacklist” of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. 

 Furthermore,   the Directive also introduces a maximum lump sum of two million euros for penalties in cases where information on turnover is not available. However, when such information is available the penalty will amount to 4% of the trader’s annual turnover in the previous financial year in the Member State(s) concerned. 

 Moreover, this Directive also deals with the issue of dual quality of products.   This is a situation in which the same products, marketed under the same brand, have different composition or    characteristics.    According to the agreement reached,  any significant difference will have to be made clear and visible to the consumer at the time of purchase.   Two years   from the date of entry into application, the Commission will have to review the implementation of this provision and determine whether   dual quality of products    issue needs to be added to the   blacklist of unfair commercial practices. 

 Even though   Ecommerce Europe   still needs to assess the   text of the   agreement – once     it is    made  available –   the European e-commerce association   regrets that   the   Directive   will not help    reduce    administrative burdens for   online shops   in relation to the abuse of   the   right of withdrawal.   In fact, the European Commission originally proposed to  counter   the   abusive   behavior   of   returning    goods    that    have been subject to   misuse    or overuse by consumers   beyond what is needed by them    to assess the product,    as   they    would do in a physical shop.   However, the correction proposed by the Commission has not been retained   and   businesses, especially SMEs, will still experience burdens in relation to this behavior.   

 This provisional agreement now needs to be confirmed by the Member States’ ambassadors (Coreper) and the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee. Finally, after their approval, the agreement must be officially approved by the European Parliament’s Plenary and the EU Council of Ministers. 

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