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Sweeps - coordinated control actions

The "EU sweep" is an EU-wide screening of websites in particular online sector. It is conducted in a form of simultaneous, coordinated checks to identify breaches of consumer law and to subsequently ensure its enforcement. Following such investigation, the relevant national authorities take proper enforcement actions: they contact companies about suspected irregularities and ask them to take corrective action or face legal action.

Sweep actions reveal whether EU consumer protection laws are doing what they were designed to do. This kind of tool also enables to test the effectiveness of the enforcement action.

How "Sweeps" work in practice

1. Co-ordinated sweep action

Participating Member States systematically and simultaneously check for practices on different websites where consumer protection law is not respected.

Examples of such malpractices include:

  • incomplete information on the trader, lack of contact details;

  • incorrect and misleading information about the price (hidden costs, such as tax, delivery fee);

  • insufficient information on the products characteristics;

  • advertising that a product is free of charge, and afterwards tying the consumer to a long term subscription;

  • unclear information on the right of withdrawal from the agreement, return or reimbursement of the product.

Results of such investigation are basis for the next phase.

 
2. Enforcement action

During this phase, authorities further investigate websites flagged as "having irregularities" during the sweep and take appropriate follow up actions to ensure that non-compliant sites are corrected and/or closed.

National authorities investigate and take enforcement actions for national cases.

In case of cross-border cases (e.g. where the trader operates from another country), enforcement authorities request assistance from colleagues in other countries' authorities. This is done via the Consumer Protection Co-operation Network of national enforcement authorities from 28 Member States, Norway and Iceland.

 

What sanctions can be imposed?

The enforcement of the EU consumer legislation, including sanctions and penalties, takes place at a national level.

Possible enforcement measures include:

  • demand to correct irregularities on the website;

  • imposing fines;

  • closing down of the website.

Enforcement authorities are obliged to take measures (repeatedly if need be) until the infringement has ceased.