The sweeps operate in in a two-step action process, comprising of
- screening websites to identify breaches of consumer law in a given online market
- enforcement in which national authorities ask traders to take corrective actions
Sweeps are coordinated by the European Commission and carried out simultaneously by national enforcement authorities in participating countries. Sweeps were conducted in the following areas: websites selling air tickets (2007); ring tones for mobile phones (2008); electronic goods (2009); tickets for cultural and sports events (2010); consumer credit (2011); digital content (2012); travel services (2013); guarantees in consumer electronics (2014); Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU (2015); comparison tools in the travel sector (2016); and telecommunication and other digital services (2017).
Examples of sweeps
2018 sweep on price transparency and drip pricing
In 2018, CPC authorities performed an EU-wide screening of 560 e-commerce sites offering a variety of goods, services and digital content, such as clothing or footwear, computer software or entertainment tickets. The results of the sweep published in February 2019 indicated that around 60% of these websites showed irregularities regarding the respect of EU consumer rules, predominately in relation to how prices and special offers are presented.
For more than 31% of all websites offering discounts (431 of all 560 websites checked), consumer authorities suspected that the special offers may not always be authentic or they found the way the discounted price was calculated unclear.
On 211 of the 560 websites the final price at payment was higher than the initial price offered and 39% of those traders did not include proper information on unavoidable extra fees on delivery, payment methods, booking fees and other similar surcharges. EU consumer law obliges traders to present prices to consumers inclusive of all mandatory costs, and where such costs cannot be calculated in advance, the fact that these may be payable by the consumer needs to be clearly indicated to the consumer already at offer stage.
Furthermore, the checks revealed that a considerable amount of the 560 websites checked did not provide consumers with an easily accessible link to the Online Dispute Resolution Platform (59%) and/or to accurately inform consumers about their right of withdrawal (29%).
2017 / 2018 - Telecommunication and other digital services
Among services markets, the ‘telecom’ sector caused the highest overall consumer detriment and displayed by far the highest proportion of consumers having experienced problems in the EU Consumer Markets Scoreboard – Edition 2016. The 2017 Sweep examined whether sufficient information was provided concerning the service provider, the main characteristics of the product or service, the price, the contract performance, and the terms and conditions of use.
The sweep field work was carried out between 1 and 30 November and screened 207 websites. The results show that many of these websites do not provide clear information on handling complaints.
- in 78,7% of cases, the website did not provide a link to the ODR platform;
- in 40.6% of the websites, there was no description of a dispute resolution system;
- 31.9% of the websites took the liberty of unilaterally changing the terms of the contract or the service characteristics unbeknown to the consumer and without allowing the consumer to cancel the contract under reasonable notice;
- 25,1% of the websites did not provide clear or truthful information about subsequent compensation and refund arrangements when the contracted service quality levels are not met;
- 21,7% did not provide clear and comprehensive information on the automatic contract renewal.
For more information:
352 price comparison and travel booking websites across the EU were screened in October 2016. It was found that prices were not reliable on 235 websites, two thirds of the sites checked. For example, additional price elements were added at a late stage of the booking process without clearly informing the consumer or promotional prices did not correspond to any available service.
2015 – Pre-contractual information required by Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU
The sweep in 2015 focused on the quality of information available to consumers online before a purchase, the so-called pre-contractual information required by the Consumer Rights Directive. In total, authorities in EU countries checked 743 websites. Irregularities were confirmed in 436 cases (63%). 353 out of 436 websites have been corrected during the enforcement phase.
2014 – Guarantee of consumer electronics
The sweep in 2014 focussed on Legal and Commercial Guarantees in the Electronic Goods Sector. It took place in 26 EU Member States, plus Norway and Iceland in October 2014. National consumer protection authorities screened how websites selling mobile phones, computers, cameras, or TVs comply with the EU legislation on guarantees. 235 out of the 437 websites checked did not sufficiently inform consumers on their free of charge right to get defective goods repaired or replaced within at least 2 years of purchase. As a result of national enforcement actions, 82% of the websites checked were later brought into compliance.