Today, the Commission presented its New Deal for consumers with the aim to strengthen EU consumer rights and enforcement under Union law. At its core it envisions that national consumer authorities are to be equipped with greater power and sanctioning tools in order to act on consumers' behalf. Moreover, consumer protection is to be extended to the online world and it will be clarified that misleading dual quality practices are prohibited.
These are the central points:
Strengthening consumer rights online: The New Deal foresees more transparency in online market places and regarding search results on online platforms. For instance, when consumers are buying from an online market place, they have to be clearly informed about whether the purchased goods or services are offered by a trader or private person. As for online search results, consumers will be informed when a search result is being paid for by a trader and about the main parameters that determine the ranking of results.
Appropriate tools to enforce consumer rights: Consumer organizations in all EU countries will be able to seek redress, such as compensation, replacement or repair, on behalf of a group of consumers that have been harmed by an illegal commercial practice. Moreover, the New Deal will ensure that consumers in all Member States have the right to claim individual remedies (i.e. financial compensation or termination of contract) when they are affected by unfair commercial practices, such as aggressive or misleading marketing.
Effective penalties for violations of EU consumer law: Under the proposal, EU consumer authorities will have the power to impose effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties in a coordinated manner. For widespread infringements that affect consumers in several EU Member States, the available maximum fine will be four percent of the trader's annual turnover in each respective Member State.
Against dual quality of consumer products: According to the Commission's guidelines from September 2017, the New Deal will update the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. This shall make explicit that national authorities can assess and address misleading commercial practices regarding the marketing of products as being identical across EU countries, although their composition or characteristics differ significantly.
Monique Goyens, Director General of the European Consumer Organization BEUC, commented: “The Commission is right to make EU consumer law more enforceable. Too often, consumers are left footing the bill for a company’s unfair practices and find out getting their rights respected is mission impossible. Tougher sanctions and the ability for consumers to seek collective compensation are long overdue. The New Deal is really welcome. For too long, consumers have not had the access to justice they deserve when they suffer from unfair or illegal business practices. It will now be possible for consumers to claim compensation collectively in some cases.”