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Websites offering digital contents such as games, e-books, videos and music, now more than 80% compliant after sweep 2012

Over 80% of the websites checked for breach of EU consumer rules now give satisfactory information to clients compared to only 50% in 2012.

In summer 2012, consumer authorities in 26 Member States, Norway and Iceland checked 330 sites websites that sell digital content products (games, books, videos, music). The main problems found were unfair contract terms, unclear information with regard to the right of withdrawal and lack of mandatory information on the trader's identity.

A "sweep" is an EU-wide screening of websites, to identify breaches of consumer law and to subsequently ensure its enforcement. The sweep is coordinated by the European Commission and run simultaneously by national enforcement authorities. The Digital Content Sweep took place in 26 EU Member States, Norway and Iceland in June 2012.

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First part of the Sweep

The European Commission on 6 December 2012 published the results of an EU wide screening of websites selling games, books, videos and music which can be downloaded to your computer or mobile device. The check shows that over 75% of these websites do not appear to comply with consumer protection rules. This is all the more worrying when vulnerable consumers, i.e. children, are targeted. Users have to click their way through a maze of contract terms, to find out how much they will eventually have to pay and children are frequently lured into purchasing items related to supposedly free games. In case of a problem, reaching the after-sales service is often difficult as contact information is missing in more than one third of the websites. National enforcement authorities will now contact the companies concerned to enable them to clarify their position or correct their website.

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What consumers need to check before and after buying digital content products online

  1. Make sure that the trader provides his name, geographical and e-mail address.
  2. Check that you are given sufficient information and minimum operating system requirements of the product such as size, quality and whether a device or particular software is needed in order to operate the digital content product.
  3. Look out for the final price; including taxes and all charges that may be hidden in the last stages of the payment process.
  4. Be aware that once you have started downloading the product, you have usually no right to return it.
  5. Beware of terms that exclude the trader from various liability and redress mechanisms; they are probably unfair.
  6. You have a right to take legal action and seek any legal remedy. Any restriction of that right is considered unfair.
  7. Look for information whether you can use or not the digital content in another country than the one you reside in. Contact the sales office for advice, if you do not find the information.
  8. Be careful when you or your child see games advertised as free; there might be add-ons requiring payment without you being warned about it beforehand.
  9. In case of a problem with a trader in another Member State you can report it to your local European Consumer Centre.

 
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