By an overwhelming majority, the European Parliament today adopted the Consumer Rights Directive. The Directive is meant to strengthen consumer rights in off-premises contracts, especially in online transactions. In its press release following the vote in Parliament, the European Commission enumerates ten ways in which the CRD will give consumers stronger rights when shopping online. These include: protection against 'cost traps' (e.g. paying for 'free' services, such as recipes), banning pre-ticked boxes on websites, allowing the consumer a 14-days withdrawal period, and requiring traders to give better information on digital content (e.g. concerning compatibility of the digital content with hardware and software, and application of technical protection measures).
The next steps in the legislative procedure now are the following:
- Formal approval of the agreed text of the CRD by the EU Council of Ministers (September);
- Publication of the new Directive in the EU's Official Journal (this autumn);
- Transposition of the new rules into the national laws before the end of 2013.
Between parentheses: Seeing all these cheerful messages, one might almost forget that the review of the acquis communautaire in the field of consumer law once (not so very long ago, in 2004) was intended to cover eight Directives. The reduction of the scope of the CRD, first to four Directives (2008) and now to merely two (distance selling and doorstep selling; thus excluding standard terms and hardly providing any general rules on consumer sales) may reflect political reality, but seems somewhat disappointing in light of an idealist agenda for further harmonisation of European contract law.
To be continued...