Monday, 7 June 2010

Where consumers fear to tread...

In a speech given at the occasion of the 2nd Consumer Rights Directive Forum, on 2 June 2010, Commissioner Viviane Reding once more expressed her intention to enhance consumer trust in the single market. She especially indicated the Internet as an area of attention, pointing out that only few EU e-shoppers order from other European countries, and referring to the Commission's Digital Agenda of May 2010.

According to Reding, the proposed Consumer Rights Directive will help the further progress of the market. Rather than the initially proposed maximum harmonisation, this Directive should provide for targeted full harmonisation of certain topics (on which an earlier post appeared on this blog). In her speech, Reding indicates the following strategies for the regulation of distance and off-premises contracts:
- full harmonisation of rules on precontractual information for these contracts;
- a 14-day cooling-off period;
- and standard withdrawal forms.

With regard to remedies, however, Reding suggests not to make a distinction between these types of contracts and on-premises contracts:
'In particular, I accept the case for common rules on the remedies and legal guarantee for faulty goods for all transactions. To this end, I would be prepared to raise the level of protection and introduce new remedies if this is accompanied by a breakthrough for the single market through full harmonisation.'

This sounds promising, especially given the fact that the current proposal for a CRD does hardly (if at all) provide any common remedies. Moreover, it would bring the CRD closer to the (Draft) Common Frame of Reference for European Contract Law, for the further development of which the Commission has recently appointed an expert group.

Finally, in order to ensure that the Internet does not remain a place 'where consumers fear to tread', Reding highlights the importance of fundamental rights protection (e.g. privacy on the Internet). Food for thought, in particular in relation to other imminent changes in the safeguarding of fundamental rights in European law, such as the accession of the Union to the ECHR.

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