Friday, 22 December 2017

AG Sharpston Opinion in Finnair case : An electronic complaint is a complaint in writing

On the 20th of December, the AG opinion on Case C-258/16 Finnair Oyj v Keskinäinen Vakuutusyhtiö Fennia (hereafter: Finnair case) was published. The case concerned the interpretation of Art. 31 of the 1999 Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air (hereafter: Montreal Convention) on timely notice of complaints.

Facts of case

Ms Mäkelä-Dermedesiotis travelled from Malaga to Helsinki on a Finnair flight in 2010. Upon arrival she discovered that items were missing from her checked-in luggage. On the same day of the flight, Ms Mäkelä-Dermedesiotis contacted the customer service of Finnair to report the incident. In that phonecall, she identified the lost items and informed the Finnair representative of their value. The representative entered the information provided by Ms Mäkelä-Dermedesiotis into the Finnair electronic information system. Ms Mäkelä-Dermedesiotis had taken out insurance and received compensation for her loss and the insurance company, Fennia, was subrogated in her place in the claim against Finnair. Finnair argued that Ms Mäkelä-Dermedesiotis had not filed a written claim within the periods laid down in Article 31 of the Montreal Convention.

Article 31 of the Montreal Convention states that:
1.Receipt by the person entitled to delivery of checked baggage … without complaint is prima facie evidence that the same has been delivered in good condition and in accordance with the document of carriage or with the record preserved by the other means referred to in paragraph 2 of Article 3
2.In the case of damage, the person entitled to delivery must complain to the carrier forthwith after the discovery of the damage, and, at the latest, within seven days from the date of receipt in the case of checked baggage … In the case of delay, the complaint must be made at the latest within twenty-one days from the date on which the baggage … [has] been placed at his or her disposal.
3.Every complaint must be made in writing and given or dispatched within the times aforesaid.
4. If no complaint is made within the times aforesaid, no action shall lie against the carrier, save in the case of fraud on its part.’

Questions

The case eventually reached the Supreme Court of Finland which referred the following 4 questions to the CJEU:
(1) Is Article 31(4) of the Montreal Convention to be interpreted as meaning that, to preserve a right of action, it is necessary, in addition to giving notice of a complaint in due time, that the complaint be made in writing within the times specified, in accordance with Article 31(3)?
(2) If, to preserve a right of action, a complaint must be made in writing in due time, is Article 31(3) of the Montreal Convention to be interpreted as meaning that the requirement of writing may be fulfilled in an electronic procedure and also by the registration of the damage in the information system of the carrier?
(3) Does the Montreal Convention preclude an interpretation by which the requirement of writing is regarded as fulfilled where, with the knowledge of the passenger, a representative of the carrier records in writing the notice of complaint/the complaint either on paper or electronically in the carrier’s system?
(4) Does Article 31 of the Montreal Convention subject a complaint to further substantive requirements than that of giving notice to the carrier of the damage sustained?’

Opinion

The incident in question, where items were missing from the luggage but not the luggage itself, is best characterised as damaged baggage rather than loss of baggage, according to the AG. That is important to ensure that Art. 31 of the Montreal Convention applies.
The answer to the first question according to the AG is that the notice under Art. 31 needed not only to be made within the 7-day limit but also to be made in writing in order to be valid. That is hardly surprising as Art. 31(4) of the Montreal Convention clearly sets out both requirements and any other interpretation would leave the airline carrier vulnerable to complaints about damaged luggage that would be difficult to verify.
The real essence of the opinion can be found in questions 2 and 3 which ask whether an electronic record of the complaint via representative is compliant with the requirement of Art. 31 of the Montreal Convention to have the complaint ‘in writing’.
In order to answer the second question AG Sharpston contrasted the main characteristics of written and oral communication. The key characteristics of written communication are permanence and retrievability, while oral communication is only recalled from memory and it is difficult to verify. In other words, verba volant, scripta manent. The question then becomes whether electronic communication satisfies the requirements of permanence and retrievability and according to the AG, that is indeed the case. To support her argument, she points out how it is increasingly common, especially for airline companies to keep all their records electronically and how limiting the meaning of ‘in writing’ to a record made in paper would go against the purpose of the Montreal Convention. (para 44 of AG Opinion).
As Finnair held an electronic record of the complaint it was always possible to generate a printout of the complaint which would mean that even a stricto sensu interpretation of ‘in writing’ as ‘in paper’ would be satisfied. (para 49 of AG Opinion) This is a logical interpretation of the condition one that reflects technological developments and everyday practice and is not too onerous for consumers.
This brings us to the third question of whether the consumer needs to record the complaint themselves or whether someone else can do it on their behalf and under their direction as was the case here where the complaint of Ms Mäkelä-Dermedesiotis was recorded by a representative of Finnair. According to AG Sharpston, the Montreal Convention does not set any requirements that aim to prove the origin of the complaint, such as signing the complaint; meaning that the Montreal Convention does not preclude enlisting help for ‘transforming the complaint he wishes to make into written form’ (see para 57 of AG Opinion). So, a complaint that originated with the passenger who decided to report the complaint, as well as its content, that a representative of the airline assisted to record, is compliant with the requirements of the Montreal Convention.
Finally, the answer to the fourth question was that there are no other substantive requirements to be satisfied other than the complaint to be given in written form in the time limits prescribed.

AG Sharpston provided a convincing and intelligent analysis of the issues in question which was well grounded in the realities of the passenger-airline relationship. Airline companies should not be allowed to circumvent their responsibilities to passengers based on a narrow interpretation of the law. Accepting that electronic communications constitute communication ‘in writing’ is logical and consistent with the way companies function in the 21st century. Overall, this is a welcome opinion that, if adopted by the Court will make a difference for many consumers in what is a very common occurrence. This blog will keep you informed you of all the developments of the case.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

CJEU gives Member States a green light to regulate Uber

Just yesterday the Court of Justice delivered its judgment in one of the two high-profile cases brought before it with respect to the European operations of the US-based digital multinational Uber. The ruling in C‑434/15 Asociación Profesional Elite Taxi (or Uber Spain) comes as a serious blow to the company, which has continuously insisted to act merely as a provider of an online intermediation service. The Court has, however, largely followed the earlier opinion of the Advocate-General Szpunar (see our posts on both opinions here and here) and classified the activities of Uber as "services in the field of transport".

Why is this relevant?

Due to its socio-economic importance - both at the national level and from the internal market perspective - as well as specific features - particularly with respect to the (former) public or quasi-public transport networks - transport sector has traditionally been given a special treatment under the EU Treaties. For the similar reasons Member States have long been reluctant to open their national transport markets to liberalisation. As a matter of fact, it required an action brought by the Parliament against the Council to confirm the positive obligation of the latter to extend the freedom to provide services to that sector (case C-13/83 Parliament v. Council). This has led to an intensification of the legislative efforts aimed to remove the barriers to cross-border provision of different transport services - air, road, rail and water - and at the same time reaffirmed the specificity of the path taken in that area, resulting inter alia in the exclusion of "services in the field of transport" from the scope of Services Directive.

In the case at hand the specificity of the transport sector meets with another special area of the EU law - that related to the provision of the so-called "information society services". This domain, associated mainly with online activities, has been subject to a separate legal scheme - the E-Commerce Directive

The question thus appeared whether the activity of Uber - that is the provision of a paid service, by means of a smartphone application, consisting of connecting non-professional drivers using their own vehicles with persons wishing to make urban journeys - should be qualified as a service in the field of transport, an information society service, neither or both. Should the services in question fall under the scope of either Services or E-Commerce Directive, the liberalisation regime established in those acts would kick in, meaning that Member States would only be allowed to restrict their provision if specific conditions set out in those directives were fulfilled.

Judgment of the CJEU

The Court opted for an interpretation which is least favourable to Uber and leaves the widest margin of discretion to the Member States. Its reasoning appears to be largely based on the AG opinion, even though no direct references to that document are made. The following points are worth highlighting:
  • The intermediation service consisting of connecting non-professional drivers with the passengers by means of a smartphone application is, in principle, a separate service from the underlying transport service and, again in principle, meets the criteria for classification as an "information society service" (paras. 34-35).
  • However, the concrete service provided by Uber is more than an intermediation service. In the specific case at hand, the service of intermediation is rather an integral part of an overall service whose main component is a transport service (paras. 38, 40).
  • This is because, as explained in paragraph 39, firstly, the intermediation service is "based on the selection of non-professional drivers using their own vehicle, to whom the company provides an application without which (i) those drivers would not be led to provide transport services and (ii) persons who wish to make an urban journey would not use the services provided by those drivers" and, secondly, Uber exercises "decisive influence" over the conditions under which that service is provided by the drivers (infuences prices, processes payments, engages in quality control).

Consequently, services provided by the company cannot be classified as information society services, but rather belong to services in the field of transport. This means that the activities of Uber fall outside the scope of the E-Commerce and Services Directives as well as Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. They are, by contrast, covered by Article 58(1) TFEU and further provisions applicable to the area of transport. This is of limited help to Uber as no common rules coverning the type of services provided within its business model (i.e. non-public urban transport) currently exist at the EU level. Member States, therefore, enjoy a wide margin of discretion when it comes to regulating the conditions under which services of that type can be provided. 

Concluding thought

The judgment is a significant defeat for Uber, which should probably brace itself for the upcoming ruling in the parallel French case. Its implications for other businesses belonging to the so-called "platform economy" may, nevertheless, be less far reaching than it can seem at first sight. After all, it is the specificity of the transport sector that left the services provided by the company outside the scope of both directives. Additionally, the reference to a "decisive influence", while not legally uncontroversial, suggests that it is only in fairly specific circumstances that an online service may fall outside the scope of the information society framework. Negative consequences of the judgment thus appear to be largely Uber-specific - at least for the time being. Or, as its critics might say, what goes around comes around.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

'Brexit: will consumers be protected?'

We have reported earlier on this blog about Brexit (one week after the referendum and last month). For anyone wondering whether consumers will still be protected after Brexit, we would like to refer to a Report of the EU Justice Sub-Commitee of the House of Lords that has now been published. On its website, the Sub-Committee calls on the Government to explain exactly how it intends to ensure that UK citizens' consumer rights will be protected and enforced after the UK leaves the EU: "Consumer rights are best protected through shared legislation, shared mechanisms and cooperation with cross-border agencies."

Click here for the full Report.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The ‘proceduralization’ of Directive 93/13 and its limits

The CJEU's judgment in Banco Santander (C-598/15) that came out this week is the latest addition to a growing body of case law on procedural obstacles to consumer protection under Directive 93/13. The focus on procedures and the role of national (civil) courts in ensuring the effectiveness of the Directive, i.e. its 'proceduralization', has been the subject of debate between judges, legal practitioners and academics for a while now. It receives attention from the European Commission as well (see, e.g., the REFIT report of the European Commission, the RE-Jus project aimed at providing judicial training, and a much-anticipated study of the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg). However, Banco Santander reveals the limits of 'proceduralization' driven by preliminary references to the CJEU.

In this case, the referring Spanish court was confronted with a fait accompli, which made the judicial review of unfair contract terms impossible. It all started with a mortgage loan agreement between Banco Santander and Ms. Sánchez Lopez. The contract contained a clause - Clause 11 - by which Ms. Sánchez not only expressly agreed to enforcement through extrajudicial proceedings, but also authorised the bank to execute the sale of the mortgaged property on her behalf. Thus, the bank could represent Ms. Sánchez before the notary drawing up the sale instrument without her attendance. The bank had initiated (compulsary) mortgage enforcement proceedings, the property was acquired by the bank for 59.7% of the value, and the sale instrument had been entered into the land register, while Ms. Sánchez continued to owe the residual debt. At first, the bank had allowed her to stay on the premises as a tenant. Later, it brought a claim seeking an order for the eviction of Ms. Sánchez from the property. 

The referring court questioned the compatibility of the applicable procedural framework with Directive 93/13. The problem was that it was 'too late' for ex officio control of the unfairness of the terms - in particular Clause 11 - of the underlying mortgage contract: the transfer of ownership had already taken place. The court was merely required to enforce and protect the bank's property right. One the one hand, it could be said that Ms. Sánchez should have challenged the mortgage enforcement in time. On the other hand, the question could be raised (a) if she had any incentive to do so, because the bank initially allowed her to stay, and (b) whether she was actually aware of her rights, given the fact that the extrajudicial proceedings and the sale had taken place entirely without her involvement. 

Last June we reported on this blog that Advocate General Wahl's answer to the referred questions in this case was, in short: "we can't help you". Directive 93/13 simply does not apply to proceedings concerning property rights. The CJEU basically gives the same answer, but with two important nuances: (i) the proceedings are independent of the legal relationship between the creditor (the bank) and the consumer; and (ii) the consumer has not availed herself of the legal remedies provided. We will discuss these nuances below.

I. No link between the present proceedings and the mortgage
The scope of application of the Directive and the CJEU's competence are limited to proceedings concerning contractual relationships, whereas the present proceedings concerned property rights. Here, the party who had lawfully acquired the property happened to be the bank, but any (other) interested third party could have become the owner. Against such a third party, the consumer-debtor cannot invoke a defence based on the mortgage contract between her and the bank. 

Yet, the CJEU does not stop here. It recalls that "it has been held, in particular as regards enforcement proceedings for mortgages, that, failing effective review of the potential unfairness of contractual terms in the instrument on the basis of which the property is seized, observance of the rights conferred under Directive 93/13 cannot be guaranteed" (para 46; emphasis added). The CJEU refers to, in particular, Finanmadrid and Aziz. As the CJEU explains, the difference between this case and Aziz is that here, the action is brought on the basis of an ownership instrument as entered in the land register. This suggests that the CJEU is sensitive to the doubts of the referring court as to the course of events in the present case. It almost seems to regret that no question was asked about the unfairness of the terms in the mortgage contract, within the meaning of Article 3 of the Directive (cf. the obiter dictum in para 48). In this respect, it is a pity that the question regarding the role of the notary was inadmissible (para 31). 

II. Availability of legal remedies
The CJEU also reiterates the importance of guaranteeing effective judicial protection to consumers (cf. Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights), by enabling them to contest the contract at hand in legal proceedings, including in the enforcement phase, and under reasonable procedural conditions (para 38). The CJEU considers that "it appears" that legal remedies were available to Ms. Sánchez, "subject to verification by the referring court" (para 49). The choice of words - the CJEU uses "opportunity" - is interesting. What if such an opportunity existed from a strictly legal perspective, but Ms. Sánchez was, in fact, deterred from using it as a consequence of Clause 11 and the bank's conduct, reinforced by the procedural rules at issue? The effective judicial protection of consumers under Directive 93/13 is based on the presumption that a case comes before a court, as was observed in an Opinion by AG Sharpston last week. Here, we run into the limits of 'proceduralization'. Perhaps it is time to recognise that the mere existence of a legal remedy is not enough; perhaps, there is a need for a shift in focus to the more fundamental question whether a certain procedural regime is justified in light of the interests it aims to protect [*].

[*] See for a first exploration: Anna van Duin, 'Metamorphosis? The Role of Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in Cases Concerning National Remedies and Procedures Under Directive 93/13/EEC', available on SSRN

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Prohibiting online platforms from reselling luxury goods - CJEU in Coty Germany (C-230/16)

The CJEU gave its judgment (C-230/16) yesterday in a competition law case that may impact how luxury goods are sold to consumers online in the future. Coty Germany - a supplier of luxury cosmetics in Germany - brought a case against one of its authorised distributors, Parfumerie Akzente for using online third-party platforms (amazon.de) to resell their products. Coty set up a selective distribution network in order to protect the luxurious image of the brands it represents (eg Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein). Their claim was that if their distributors use then online third-party platforms to resell their products, the objective of brand image protection is undermined. The distribution agreement allowed for the online sale of products supplied by Coty but only through the online webstore of the authorised distributor, whilst ensuring that the luxury character of the cosmetics was maintained. German courts brought the case the the CJEU as there was doubt whether the express prohibition in the distribution agreements of re-selling products through online stores of third-parties could restrict competition under art. 101(1) TFEU.

The CJEU has no doubts that maintaining a prestigious, luxurious image of the brand may justify the introduction of the selective distribution system (paras 28-29). Can such a distribution agreement prevent the distributor from re-selling the goods on an online website of a third-party? The CJEU determines that such a limitation could be justified, provided that it would apply in a non-discriminatory fashion, uniformly to all distributors, and was proportionate. From the Court's observations it seems that in this case the restriction was justified and proportionate (paras 44-53). As Coty does not have a contractual relationship with an online third-party platform reselling its goods, it would be difficult for it to ensure that they are being sold in a way guaranteeing to show off their luxurious character (paras 48-49). Moreover, distributors are allowed to sell these goods online - just on their own websites, which makes the restriction proportionate.

This judgment may mean that the offer for certain luxury goods on online platforms such as Amazon or eBay will be more limited in the future. Unless, suppliers of these goods will create their own webstores on these platforms.

Digital content proposal extended to IoT

Last month we have reported on the updated proposals for the Directive on online and other distance sale of goods (Towards a more coherent...). This proposal is part of one package together with a proposal for a Directive on the supply of digital content. Last week, in the first reading at the European Parliament certain amendments have been introduced to this latter proposal (see here for the full text of amendments). 

One of the amendments changes the scope of the proposal by making it apply not only to the supply of the digital content but also explicitly to digital services. Amendment 11 clarifies that the Directive would also apply to dual purpose contracts. Amendment 14 leaves it to the Member States to regulate remedies for 'hidden defects' as well as to continue to provide for the short-term right to reject. 

One of the most controversial amendments is Amendment 18 which extends the scope of application of the Directive to smart goods (IoT) (further confirmed by Amendments 25 and 31). Whenever the digital content or digital services come pre-installed in goods, 'the trader should be liable under this Directive to the consumer for meeting his obligations only in respect of the embedded digital content or digital service. Liability for the other elements of those goods should be governed by the applicable law.' The same rules would apply to IoT goods purchased online and offline. Whilst the liability of producers and traders of software for IoT goods should then not extend to covering other elements of IoT goods, traders of IoT goods would be subject to the conditions of the proposed Directive which require digital content and digital services providers to guarantee a high standard of security and interoperability. The European Parliament considers these adjustments necessary to guarantee that the proposed Directive remains relevant when faced with the reality of the use of modern technology. Apparently, however, the Council is likely to object to these amendments (European Parliament pushes on IoT device security and interoperability). We will continue to observe the fate of these proposals.


Thursday, 30 November 2017

Between equivalence and effectiveness: Opinion of AG Sharpston on unfair terms control in default proceedings

Today, Advocate General Sharpston delivered her Opinion in a Belgian case (C-147/16Karel de Grote Hogeschool v Susan Kuijpers) on the scope of Directive 93/13 as well as the powers and obligations of national courts under that Directive. The case concerns the 'Europeanization' of (national) civil procedure and the 'proceduralization' of unfair terms control. More particularly, it concerns the role of the civil court in default proceedings, i.e. when the defendant does not appear.

Judicial districts in Belgium
A claim was brought by an educational establishment against a student who had borrowed the amount of money she needed to pay her registration fee, but subsequently defaulted on her repayments. The student did not take any (active) part in the proceedings the school initiated to recover the outstanding debt. In Belgium, when a judgment in default is given, civil courts are only required to apply national rules of public policy (Article 806 of the Judicial Code, amended in 2015). This caused uncertainty within the judiciary as regards the rules on unfair contract terms [*]. Could and should a court examine of its own motion (ex officio) whether the contract at hand falls within the scope of the Directive as implemented in Belgian law, and if so, whether its terms are unfair?

AG Sharpston first reiterates that the procedural autonomy of the EU Member States is limited by the principles of equivalence and effectiveness. She then refers to Asturcom (C-40/08) to point out that the principle of effectiveness "cannot be stretched so far as to mean that a national court is required to make up fully for the total inertia on the part of the consumer" (para 28). However, the principle of equivalence entails that inasmuch as the court is required to assess whether a term conflicts with domestic rules of public policy, it must do the same with the rules under Directive 93/13. Thus, those rules should be treated as rules of public policy.

In a forthcoming article [cited below], the Belgian scholar Janek Nowak explains the two approaches very clearly. The difficulty with the effectiveness approach is, in short, that Belgian civil courts would have to disregard Article 806 insofar as it limits them in their tasks. The equivalence approach is less 'disruptive': it reconciles EU law requirements with national civil procedure, while it also avoids the issue of the (lack of) horizontal direct effect of directives. AG Sharpston shares the Belgian Government's view that Article 806 provides room for a broad interpretation of the national court's powers and obligations in light of Directive 93/13. Yet she also refers to the effective legal protection guaranteed by the Directive which must be ensured "whatever the rules of domestic law":  the Directive must be applied "irrespective of the status afforded to the national rules" implementing it in the national legal order and irrespective "of the parties' procedural actions or submissions" (para 33). The only exception is that national courts do not have to - and cannot - intervene where none of the parties has brought proceedings. In all other cases, they must exercise ex officio control.

The second part of the Opinion addresses the meaning of 'seller or supplier'. AG Sharpston advocates a broad interpretation (see para 67). She focuses on "the capacity of the contracting parties" (para 66). In this respect, there is a link between the first and the second part: the substantive imbalance between the parties (in terms of both bargaining power and level of knowledge) is accentuated by a procedural inequality. A consumer is, in the words of AG Sharpston, "likely to find himself on the receiving end" of the proceedings, which "will affect his legal situation, whether he participates in the proceedings or not" (para 32). This would justify an active role of national (civil) courts as decentralized EU-judges, even though such a role might 'clash' with their position in the domestic (procedural) framework. Especially in default proceedings with consumers as defendants, national courts struggle with the practical problem of having to deal with a great number of cases, insufficient factual information and the need to take the interests of the claimant into account (as follows from the CJEU's case law on the right to a fair hearing as safeguarded by Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights). The stream of preliminary references on procedural questions is not likely to stop anytime soon.

[*] J.T. Nowak, 'On the impact of EU law on national civil procedure. Some considerations and recent examples from Belgium', draft paper (to be published) presented on 25 November 2016 during the 21st annual conference of the Ius Commune Research School.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Temptation of subscriptions

In the UK the organisation Citizens Advice conducted a study of consumers subscribing to various services and discovered that on average consumers pay ca 160GBP over a period of three months for unwanted services. These would include subscriptions to gyms, insurance, online streaming, TV channels - that would not end up being used. The message to consumers is to be aware of their usage habits and not to be too easily tempted to conclude yet another service at a seemingly attractive price, with an easy subscription process. Reading contract terms before signing up is always a good idea. A simple subscription process makes consumers easily sign in, but the sign-out process may be more complex and conditional. Citizens Advice reports on 9 out of 10 consumers being initially refused cancellation, in practice. This indicates the need for more inquiry into the terms and conditions of these services providers and the fairness of their provisions on terminating the contract. Still, even if termination is possible, consumer behaviour biases mean we tend to overestimate our future behaviour (how many times we will make use of the gym subscription, for example) and may be unlikely to timely cancel a contract we don't benefit from. An attractive price still may mean paying money for something that we end up not using at all, which profits service providers not consumers. 

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

New EU regulation on organic farming

The Proposal for a new Regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products was approved by the Agricultural Committee of the EU Parliament on 22nd November.

Organic farming in the EU has increased rapidly over the last years, yet it only represents 6% of the total EU agricultural area (see the background note of the EU Parliament). Therefore, the European Commission wishes to further encourage organic farming in order to reduce the need for imported organic products and increase consumer confidence in the EU. For that reason, the decision was taken to repeal and replace the previous Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 so that the legal framework better corresponds to the changing needs of the sector.

Organic farming plays a dual role, both in meeting the increasing consumer demands for organic products and in promoting sustainable farming. The aim of the new Regulation is to balance promoting sustainable organic farming with the internal market meaning promoting consumer interests as well as the interests of EU farmers.

Some of the key changes introduced by the new Regulation include that in the future imported organic goods will have to comply with EU rules on organic products rather than equivalent standards. The stricter standards for imported goods are meant to translate to increase consumer confidence in organic produce. That rule will apply after 2025, following a transitionary period of 5 years.

Avoiding contamination of organic food from pesticides is another important issue as farmers will have to take precautions. Still it will be allowed for farms to combine conventional and organic production provided the two activities are clearly separated. Furthermore, measures will be taken to boost organic production, such as increasing supply of organic food and animals and making it easier for small farms to get organic certification.

The new Regulation is designed to deliver an increased level of consumer trust by ensuring the high quality of products as well as improve the clarity of the information provided to consumers about organic products, in a market where consumers have high expectations.

Yet, the new Regulation, and the benefits it can deliver for consumers, will be only as good as its enforcement. The EU Parliament has been crucial in ensuring that the enforcement procedures are not undermined. It secured that organic farming had its own rules on controls rather than centralising them as the EU Commission envisioned. Furthermore, controls will not be limited to the final product but will happen all throughout the production cycle. 

If the EU Commission is serious about increasing consumer confidence in organic products it needs to be vigilant in supervising the control bodies that offer accreditation.