EU Digital Single Market: a Strategy to build and sustain Trust
05 May 2015
ADR/ODR/CPC - 9 letters to better protect consumers' rights
Consumers play a vital part in boosting the EU economy: 56% of our GDP comes from their expenditure. But what options do they have when a trader refuses to repair a product or to make a refund to which they are entitled? They can either sue the trader in court or give up their claim. In both cases, consumers end up wasting their time and money.
At the end of the day however, everybody picks up the bill: traders because they lose credibility and consumers because they distrust traders and don't enjoy to the full the opportunities provided by the single market. To make a long story short, it is the economy that takes the blow.
The new legislation on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) strengthens consumer protection rules especially for on-line shopping and purchases outside business premises.
The ODR Regulation provides for an EU-wide online platform to settle disputes that arise from online transactions. It will be operational as of January 2016 and will enable all national ODR entities to liaise in all 24 EU languages.
The ADR Directive will ensure that consumers can turn to alternative dispute resolution entities for all kinds of contractual disputes that they have with traders; no matter what they purchased and whether they purchased it online or offline, domestically or across borders.
All in all, both laws will change the relation between European consumers and traders for the better with a fast, simple and low-cost way of resolving small scale disputes out of court.
Consumers may also fall prey to unfair commercial practices such as traders giving false information, leaving out important information, or using aggressive practices to bully them into buying. When that happens, the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network (CPC) enables the national authority in the EU country where consumer interests are harmed to call on their counterpart in the Member State where the trader is located and ask for action to stop the malpractice. Enforcement authorities can also alert each other to malpractices they have spotted which may spread to other countries.
04 May 2015
Creating a Digital Single Market in the EU: company law and the e-justice Portal
Creating a Digital Single Market in Europe is about breaking down barriers in our online market, an action which has the potential to contribute an additional EUR 415 billion to the European GDP. In order to break down these barriers, it must be easier for public administrations, citizens and businesses across Europe to interact, and for people to know easily where to turn if they have a problem when buying or selling cross-border.
Digital public services can greatly contribute to reducing business costs and increase the quality and efficiency of services provided to citizens and companies. In this respect, company law requirements are relevant for the way in which the public administration can help facilitate the life of businesses operating in the Single Market.
Current measures include:
For consumers and businesses to make full use of the opportunities across Europe, Europe needs to have also a strong European area of justice – where people know that if they face problems cross-border, they can easily access information and know how to solve any issues. To support this aim, the Commission, in close cooperation with the Member States, operates a European e-Justice Portal providing information in 23 official EU languages.
For example, an Italian company in Lithuania needs a lawyer. A French entrepreneur wants to search the Hungarian land register. An Estonian judge has a question about the Spanish court system. Answers to all these questions can be all found on the Portal.
With more than 12 000 pages of content, the portal provides a wealth of information and links on laws and practices in all EU countries. The resources range from information on legal aid, judicial training, European small claims and videoconferencing to links to legal databases, online insolvency and land registers. It also includes user-friendly forms for various judicial proceedings, such as the European order for payment.
The release of the Portal in 2010 was just the first step in developing a multilingual online access point that makes life easier for citizens, businesses and practitioners in Europe. New information, tools and functions will be added in the coming years, including tools allowing citizens fine-tune searches for lawyers and notaries, to to make cross-border small claims or payment orders online, as well as, in the longer term, courts will be able to deal with cross-border requests online and communicate with the claimants and defendants in a particular case as well as with courts in other EU countries.
For more information:
30 April 2015
EU-wide digital contract rules boosting e-Commerce
We've all experienced this before: downloading music that wouldn't play on our device, or buying software that suddenly stops working. Digital content products include videos, music clips, software or live sport events sold online. Buying these products online can be quicker and cheaper for the consumer, but if the product is not working, people are often not aware of their rights.
There are no EU-wide rules for faulty digital content. Some Member States have already started designing their own legislation. We should avoid having 28 different sets of rules for digital content sold online. Instead, harmonised rules for digital content products will reduce the costs for traders and encourage them to expand cross-border. Consumers will know what they can expect when they buy digital content online, and that they have enforceable rights if the product is faulty. This will inspire consumers' trust in e-commerce.
For selling tangible goods online there are also legal differences between Member States, which keep businesses from selling cross-border. These differences include consumer rights when goods are defective, and protection against unfair contract terms. As a result, traders bear the costs of complying with foreign laws, while unfair contracts often put all the risk on the consumer.
The figures say it all. In 2014, only 15% of consumers bought online from other EU countries, while only 5% of businesses sold their products online in other countries. People don't buy from websites in other countries because they don't trust it will work. Traders don't sell because they are put off by the legal complexity.
For a real Digital Single Market to take root, these legal differences must go. Traders need to rely on one set of rules for both their domestic market and cross-border sales. The Digital Single Market will be crucial in getting Europe back on the growth path. We can generate up to 250 billion euro in additional growth, which translates into hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Harmonised rules across the EU will empower business to reap the benefits of e-commerce in the Digital Single Market. Consumers can be confident shopping cross-border online - with all the benefits this brings for businesses as well.
29 April 2015
On May 6, the Commission will adopt its Digital Single Market Strategy, which will outline key actions to help unlock the potential of the digital economy, and build a digital future for Europe. The Internet and digital technologies are transforming the lives we lead – as individuals, in business, and in our communities as they become more integrated across all sectors of our economy – business, health, education, transport, recreation, and beyond.
The scale and speed of these changes is particularly challenging for public authorities. Each Member State is wrestling with similar problems but on a national basis, which is too limited to allow them to seize all the opportunities and deal with all the challenges of this transformational change. For many issues the European level offers the right framework. That is why the European Commission has fixed the creation of a Digital Single Market as one of its key priorities.
Concluding the EU Data Protection Reform is an essential element to the creation and success of a Digital Single Market in Europe. As new technologies emerge every day, it is vital that data protection rules keep up the pace, ensuring that people have the confidence to use online services, and trust the way their personal data is used. The Commission’s proposals update and modernise the principles enshrined in the 1995 Directive, bringing them into the digital age and building on the high level of data protection which has been in place in Europe since 1995.
For businesses, the data protection reform will bring significant economic benefits, and will help stimulate economic growth in the Digital Single Market by cutting costs and red tape. A single, pan-European law for data protection will be established, replacing the current 28 national laws, bringing an estimated benefit of €2.3 billion a year. A 'one-stop-shop' will ensure businesses only have to deal with one supervisory authority, making it cheaper and simpler to do business in the EU.
For citizens, data protection will strengthen their rights and thereby help restore their trust in how their personal data is treated. This includes the 'Right to be forgotten', when you no longer want it processed and there's no legitimate ground for retaining it, your data will be deleted. This is about empowering individuals, not about erasing past events or restricting freedom of the press. Citizens will also have easier access to their own data, facilitating its transfer between service providers, and will have clearer control over how their data is used.
With the EU data protection reform, non-EU companies will have to abide by the same rules when offering services to EU consumers. It's about creating a level-playing field. With the reform, companies based outside or within the EU will have to apply the same rules when operating in the Union.
With stronger data protection rules, the EU can create a Digital Single Market where confidence and trust helps generate progress and growth.
For more information on Data Protection Reform:
FACTSHEET: The Right to be Forgotten ruling