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Unfair commercial practices directive

Unfair Commercial Practices

The Directive on Unfair Commercial Practicespdf was adopted in 2005 to boost consumer confidence and make it easier for businesses (especially small and medium sized (SMEs)) to carry out cross border trading.

Thanks to the Directive national enforcers have been able to curb a broad range of unfair business practices, such as providing untruthful information to consumers or using aggressive marketing techniques to influence their choices. Its legal framework is proving well suited to assess the fairness of the new on-line practices that are developing in parallel with the evolution of advertising sales techniques.

Strengthening enforcement and ensuring coherent application

It has, however, emerged that further enforcement efforts should be made to guarantee a high level of consumer protection, in a national context but particularly at cross-border level.The Commission adopted a Communication pdf(333 kB) Choose translations of the previous link on the application of Directive 2005/29/EC on Unfair Commercial Practices (COM(2013)138) on 14 March 2013.

The accompanying Reportpdf(539 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  (COM(2013)139) provides a first assessment of the application of the Directive in the Member States as well as an outline of the actions needed to maximize its benefits.

The Commission's investigation has revealed detriment and lost opportunities for consumers, in sectors where the Single Market's growth potential is the highest, such as travel and transport, digital and on-line, financial services and immovable property.

The Commission has therefore announced plans to step up enforcement of the rules to increase citizens' trust when shopping in Europe’s internal market:

  • strengthen the efficiency of the European consumer protection network and continue to promote coordinated enforcement actions ("sweeps")
  • assist Member States in effectively applying the Directive with guidance and sharing best practices
  • develop enforcement indicators to detect shortcomings and failures that require further investigative and/or corrective action.
  • establish regular thematic workshops between national enforcers and organise training for enforcers and the judiciary.

As regards the application of the Directive in the fields of financial services and immovable property, the Report relies on data collected on behalf of the Commission through a studypdf(3 MB) conducted in 2011/2012 (Annex: country reportspdf(4 MB)). 

The Commission also organised, as announced in the Communication and the Report, in 2013 two workshops with national enforcers. The meeting of 28 May focused on the online sector (in particular new advertising techniques on social networks and online comparison tools). The meeting of 29 October 2013 addressed the area of travel and transport (including issues linked to price transparency, car rental, travel insurance and booking platforms). 

Updated Guidance on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive

On 25 May 2016, the Commission adopted an updated version of the 2009 Guidance on the application of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directivepdf(2 MB) Choose translations of the previous link .

The purpose of this document is to facilitate the proper application of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (‘the UCPD’). It provides guidance on the UCPD’s key concepts and provisions and gives practical examples taken from the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and from national courts and administrations. To facilitate enforcement activities and ensure legal certainty, the updated Guidance highlights questions that are common to all Member States. This includes topics such as:

  • the interplay between the UCPD and other EU legislation;
  • the mounting case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and national courts;
  • how the UCPD applies to new and emerging business models, especially in the on-line sector.

In addition, the Guidance reflects and incorporates the key principles developed by the two Multi-stakeholder Groups on Comparison Tools and Environmental Claims.

Database on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive

The Commission has developped a new tool to support national enforcers in achieving a common understanding and a uniform application of the Directive.

The legal database is a comprehensive and user friendly instrument which gathers and gives public access to national laws transposing the Directive, jurisprudence, administrative decisions, references to related legal literature and other relevant materials. It makes it possible to compare decisions and national case-law of the Member States.

In addition, the database contains advanced search functions which cover the totality of the content.

The database is regularly updated with new content.

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