Europe is currently debating a proposal for arriving at uniform regulations on cross-border European Purchasing Law. On 17 September the JURI committee voted in favour of their reporters’ draft report, which means that the proposal for a voluntarily chosen European Purchasing Law will be put to the vote in the European Parliament.
The purpose of the proposed regulation (Common European Sales Law (CESL), COM 2011, 635) is to boost cross-border purchasing transactions by means of a voluntary system of uniform rules, i.e., which the market parties can choose to adopt, and provide a solution to the hotchpotch of rules in the various member states that have resulted mainly from the minimalistic nature of most consumer guidelines.
The proposal was received with mixed feelings and the various commissions of the European Parliament have in the meantime made comments and suggestions for amendments. As a result, the most influential parliamentary committee (Committee on Legal Affairs, JURI) has, among other things, limited the scope of the regulations to distance selling for goods, related services such as montage and digital content.
Léon Mölenberg also voiced Ecommerce Europe’s vision regarding the proposed legislation during the Public Hearing of the Parlementary Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) on 19 March in Brussels. Furthermore, European Consument Associations, united in the BEUC, and Ecommerce Europe, as representative of the e-commerce branch, sent a joint letter to members of the European Parliament, vigorously rejecting the proposal. The reasons for this are, in brief:
– the system is too complex and will cause confusion among both traders and consumers;
– it is too expensive to implement;
– it will be difficult to convince consumers that they should vote for a uniform system when it is unclear whether it offers them more protection than their own national laws;
– most of the distance selling rules will have been harmonised as of 13 June 2014, because the Consumer Rights Directive will have come into force throughout Europe and the need of further uniformity will no longer be as urgent. Furthermore, preference should be given to regulating the unsolved problem areas, in this case, harmonising additional guidelines on statutory and commercial guarantees and digital content;
– CESL will not solve the real obstacles in the field of crossborder online sales, such as, for example: various administrative obligations and VAT-systems, cultural differences such as language and digital expertise, low levels of broadband penetration, territorial limitations of intellectual property laws and differences in taxation structures, and the divergent (im)possibilities in the field of online payments.
The Parliamentary Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection has rejected the CESL proposal and indicated a preference for further harmonisation by means of guidelines on maximums relating to guarantees, digital content and the purchase of related services.
During their annual conference in Vienna, the authoritative European Law Institute (ELI) also shed its light on the JURI’s amendments and proposals. Ecommerce Europe was also able to present their vision at that venue. Léon Mölenberg was invited to sit on a panel discussing the proposals relating to CESL and participated in discussions with, among others, Luigi Berlinguer, one of the JURI reporters on CESL, and Dirk Staudenmayer, head of Unit A2-Contract Law of the European Commission’s DG for Justice.
Yesterday, on 17 September, the JURI committee voted in favour of the draft report drawn up by co-reporters Klaus-Heiner Lehne and Luigi Berlinguer, which means that the proposal on a voluntarily chosen European Purchasing Law will be put to a vote in the European Parliament.
To be continued!