National consumer enforcement authorities in EU and EEA countries (“CPC Authorities”), with the steering of the Commission, coordinate their investigation and enforcement activities to effectively tackle widespread infringements of EU consumer laws. After various signals on the alleged infringement and the review of the commercial practices of traders involved, CPC Authorities can decide to launch a coordinated action. Following the coordinated investigation, the concerned CPC Authorities might adopt a Common Position, in which they inform the trader about their concerns. Subsequently, the CPC Authorities and the Commission start discussions with the trader to ensure compliance with EU consumer laws. If the results of the communication with the trader are not satisfactory, the CPC Authorities can take rigorous enforcement measures in a coordinated manner.
Coordinated actions of the CPC network:
Misinformation and disinformation in the health space are thriving, including on COVID-19. Consumers should beware of online scams related to products that allegedly can cure or prevent the COVID-19 infection. Rogue traders advertise and sell products, such as protective masks, caps and hand sanitisers to consumers, which allegedly prevent or cure an infection but they may be fake.
To help fight such practices, the Commission has brought together the national authorities working under the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation. They adopted the CPC Common Position COVID19 on how to deal with COVID-19 related scams (see here Scams related to COVID-19 ).
Consumer protection authorities are carefully looking into the issue of frauds and scams experienced by consumers. Today, consumers are targeted by increasingly sophisticated misleading or fraudulent practices and scams, via different channels, both offline and online. Consumers can be targeted while shopping online, on social media, via telephone, text messages, e-mails or face to face through doorstep sales. This potentially has far reaching and damaging consequences for individuals and broader society alike.
Following a dialogue with the CPC Authorities, Booking.com has committed to changes in the way it presents offers, discounts and prices to consumers. With the changes, consumers should be better able to make informed comparisons in line with the requirements of EU consumer law. The company will also clarify whether a specific position in the search results is affected by a payment made by the property owner.
As more and more consumers were targeted by fraud and scams through social media, a Joint CPC action was launched to get the main social media operators (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) to bring their terms of service into conformity with European consumer law; and to create a "notice and action" procedure for CPC Authorities to report and request the removal of online illegal content.
Following the joint action of the CPC Authorities, Airbnb improved its presentation of prices in order to ensure that, whenever properties are offered, the consumer is provided with the total price inclusive of all the applicable mandatory charges and fees. Moreover, the company agreed to improve the fairness of its terms of services and to distinguish professional traders from private peer hosts
Following the Dieselgate scandal, the CPC authorities sent a letter to the Volkswagen Group, on 7 September 2017, urging the group swiftly repair all affected cars. In December 2017, Volkswagen committed to continue to offer free-of-charge repairs in 2018. In July 2018, the European Commission and national consumer authorities published their conclusions on the 8.5 million car recalls made in the Union by the Volkswagen group after the Dieselgate. Authorities welcome the VW Group’s effort to build trust in the recall and the significant improvement in the information provided to consumers. The rate of repair is now reaching 80% and the Group committed to continue the free of charge update until the end of 2020. The Commission and consumer authorities, however, regretted that the company could not give a full and clear guarantee in case of problems after the repair.
In January 2017, the CPC-network published commitments made by the five major car rental companies. The companies committed to pricing transparency and clearer terms and conditions, including clarity on insurance and waiver policies and tank refuelling options, and more fairness when handling alleged instances of damage to vehicles.
In March 2019, the CPC-network published its assessment of the commitments made by the car rental companies in 2017. The assessment noted that Enterprise and Sixt made all the required changes. Avis committed to make remaining changes by May 2019. Europcar, which now includes Goldcar, committed to implement the remaining changes by June 2019. Hertz committed to make all the necessary changes at the latest by the first quarter of 2020.
The European Commission and national consumer authorities in the European Consumer Cooperation network will follow the implementation of the remaining changes closely. Although the companies involved in this action cover two out of three of all private car rentals in the EU, other traders, such as intermediaries and smaller companies play an important role in this market. The authorities and the European Commission will continue monitoring all players to ensure they fully respect EU consumer rules.
The CPC network asked the Internet platform providers Apple and Google as well as the association of online game developers, ISFE, to propose solutions to identified problems regarding in-app purchases in online games such as: misleading advertising of games as "free"; direct exhortation to children; issues around purchase information and consent; and failure to provide trader's contact details.
Dual quality of food
On 24 June 2019, the Commission published the results of an EU-wide testing campaign comparing almost 1,400 food products across 19 EU Member States for potential cases of dual quality. The testing was based on a common methodology, developed by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre in close collaboration with all key stakeholders concerned, in order to gather scientific and comparable evidence regarding the scope and dimension of the issue in the EU’s Single Market.
In the New Deal for Consumers the Commission has proposed to update Unfair Commercial Practices Directive in order to make explicit that national authorities can assess and address misleading commercial practices involving the marketing of products as being identical in several EU countries, if their composition or characteristics are significantly different. This proposal was politically agreed by the European Parliament and the Council on 17 April 2019.
The development and implementation of a common testing methodology was one important strand of action that the Commission initiated after President Juncker’s State of the Union speech in September 2017 to address the issue of dual quality. The results of the latest testing campaign will allow the competent authorities of the Member States to base their dual quality investigations on a sound evidence base.