Agreement on “New Deal for Consumers” lacks essential balance to help online merchants sell cross-border in Europe

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Ecommerce Europe, the European digital commerce association, regrets that the trialogue agreement on the Directive on better enforcement and modernization of EU consumer rules will do little to help merchants sell cross-border in the European Union. While we originally welcomed important fixes to the existing EU consumer legislation, the agreement endorsed today by the Council’s Coreper fails in reaching the essential balance between the interests of consumers and online merchants, especially smaller ones.

 “The Omnibus Directive had the potential to clarify important elements of current EU consumer rules, such as the consumers’ right of withdrawal in case of overuse, while bringing more harmonization in the EU Single Market, to the benefit of both merchants and consumers. Regrettably, we estimate that the Directive will not help solve the issue of legal fragmentation in the Single Market and, more worryingly, it will also create some new disproportionate obligations for traders”, declared Marlene ten Ham, Secretary General of Ecommerce Europe.

Ecommerce Europe has always advocated for a fully harmonized approach to EU consumer law. Unfortunately, the Directive will allow Member States substantial room to define important provisions. For instance, the Directive will not prevent EU countries from introducing additional information requirements for online marketplaces or from derogating from provisions such as the one on the right of withdrawal in case of service contracts.

Similarly, a new provision on price reductions, inserted in the Price Indication Directive, is not only a major step back in terms of harmonization, but it would also represent a burden for specific business models. This will lead to a scattered EU market and an increase of legal uncertainty, with diverging consumers’ rights and businesses’ obligations across the EU. The same applies to the minimum approach adopted by the co-legislators on fines, beyond the fact that Ecommerce Europe does not believe that merely increasing fine levels will automatically improve enforcement.

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