Whether buying online or offline from another EU Member State, European consumers will in the future be entitled to a harmonised level oF protection in case of faulty goods.
This is the main achievement of the law on contracts for the online and other distance sales of goods, pushed through by EPP Group MEP Pascal Arimont, that calls for equal consumer rights in all EU Member States applying to both online and in-store purchases.
“Wherever in Europe a consumer is buying the product, he or she should be entitled to the same rights. With this draft piece of legislation, we are not only ensuring a high level of consumer protection, we are also taking it to the next level”, said Arimont after the law was voted in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee of the European Parliament.
Under current rules, there are still too many differences in national contract laws, which in turn hinder cross-border trade. Differences pertain, among others, to the remedies consumers are entitled to if they purchase a faulty product, such as repair, replacement, price reduction or refund. The proposed law, a part of the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy, would harmonise the key legal aspects of the online and offline sales of goods within the European Union and would therefore contribute to the better functioning of the internal market.
To ensure equal consumer rights in all EU Member States, the EPP Group made sensible progress with regard to the degree of harmonisation, without generally reducing existing consumer rights. In particular, for up to one year (instead of the current six months) following the purchase, the buyer would not need to prove that the good was faulty at the time of delivery (the burden of proof is reversed in favour of the consumer). Moreover, the consumer would be entitled to an immediate price reduction or termination of the contract and to get the money back in certain cases, e.g. if a problem still appears despite the trader’s attempt to fix it, or if it is not done within one month and without any significant inconvenience to the consumer.
“Harmonised consumer sales law rules do not only imply more consumer protection. They also ensure a level playing field for businesses by giving them more legal certainty and confidence to engage in cross-border sales. By tearing down legal barriers, we are supporting our very small companies in particular, allowing them to get their fair share of (e-)commerce next to giants such as Amazon”, concluded Pascal Arimont MEP.