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Unfair Commercial Practices
The Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices 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.
Consumer Rights under the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive are also part of the 2014 Awareness Raising Campaign .
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 on the application of Directive 2005/29/EC on Unfair Commercial Practices (COM(2013)138) on 14 March 2013.
The accompanying Report (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 study conducted in 2011/2012 (Annex: country reports).
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).
Guidance on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive
Since the adoption of the Directive, the Commission and the national enforcers have cooperated regularly to ensure a common understanding of its provisions. This Guidance aims at developing a convergence of practices while implementing the Directive.
The deadline for transposition was 12 June 2007. All EU countries had transposed the Directive by December 2009.
The Commission continues to work with the EU countries and stakeholders to make sure that the Directive is adequately implemented at a national level. The Commission will take all necessary steps to address inadequate transposition.
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 (https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/ucp/) 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 will be regularly updated with new content.
The web page is it fair? contains practical information for consumers on how to check if they have fallen victim to an unfair commercial practice, and how to get help.