European Commission

Unleashing the potential of e-commerce in Europe

Unifying the EU online and digital marketplace

How can we drive forward the Digital Single Market?

Common rules for businesses and consumers!

Benefits for businesses:

Lower costs entering new markets
More demand from more consumers

Benefits for

Improved key consumer rights
Wider choice of products at better prices

This will benefit the overall economy too!

The Digital Single Market could contribute

4 1 5 billion

per year to our economy

Bonus Fact

57 % of EU businesses active or interested in online cross-border trade would start or increase their online sales across borders.

True or false?

In today’s digital age, most EU consumers and businesses buy and sell across borders online.

False! Only 12 % of EU retailers sell online across borders, and only 15 % of EU consumers buy online across borders.


What’s holding e-commerce back?

For businesses:

4 out of 10 EU businesses selling online think that different national contract laws are an important obstacle

Bonus Fact

A family-run business sells hand-made hats and wants to expand in two other EU countries. When selling in their own country, the retailer knows that if a hat has a defect, consumers have to notify the seller within two months. However, the situation in new target markets is different: in one country, consumers still have to notify, within a "reasonable time". In the second country, there is no such duty to notify.

It costs around EUR 9 000 for a business to adapt to the contract law of each EU country it starts selling to

Bonus Fact

If contract law barriers are lifted, more than 122 000 EU businesses will start selling online across borders.

For consumers:

Only 38% of EU consumers feel confident in buying online from other EU countries


3 out of 10 top consumer concerns are:


delivery of wrong or damaged product

repair and replacement of a faulty product

Bonus Fact

Without these concerns, the average sum spent by consumers each year in online cross-border shopping would increase by nearly 14 %.

The European Commission is proposing common contract law rules for consumers and businesses that will make e-commerce easier for everyone.

So how will these new rules work?

Create a friendly environment for EU businesses

Are you supplying digital content?
e.g. music, e-books, video games, anti-virus

Are you selling goods?
e.g. jewellery, appliances, furniture, clothing

Your business will avoid additional legal costs when entering new markets

You won’t have to spend extra cash adapting consumer contracts for different EU countries

You’ll have more legal certainty when trading

You can sell more to more consumers

Bonus Fact

With contract law barriers lifted, between 8-13 million new consumers would start buying online across borders.

Empower EU consumers with common and clear rights

Did you access digital content?

Is it defective?
You can ask for a properly working version any time.

There’s no time limit to the supplier's liability

The burden to prove that you received defective digital content isn’t on you!
It’s on the business

There are no lock-in effects:
you can end long-term contracts, or contracts to which suppliers make major changes

These rights apply for paid digital content and content you access by giving your personal data (e.g. by registering)

Did you buy goods?

For an extended period of 2 years, you can request a remedy for a defective good without having to prove the defect existed at the time of delivery

Bonus Fact

Currently 6 months in 25 out of 28 EU Member States.

You won’t lose your rights if you don’t notify the seller of a defect within a specific time-limit

Bonus Fact

Currently in 17 EU countries consumers have the duty to notify the seller of a defect within a short time period.

If the seller is unable or fails to repair or replace a defective good, you can end the contract even if the defect is minor

Is it second-hand and from a trader?
The same consumer rights apply as if you bought it brand new!

Anne buys a movie

Anne pays to download a movie. While she's watching it, the movie suddenly stops: it appears the version she received is defective. What can she do?

Until now, Anne would probably only have been offered a discount for future downloads.

From now on, Anne will be able to ask the supplier to give her a version that works. If this is not feasible or the supplier fails to do this, Anne can claim a refund for the full price she paid.

Anne buys a movie

Giovanni buys a sofa

Giovanni bought a sofa online. When the sofa was delivered, he noticed a small tear on the back but decided to keep it and place it against a wall. Seven months later he moved to a new apartment where the sofa had to be placed in the middle of the room. What can he do?

Until now,

a) The seller could refuse to repair or replace the sofa, because Giovanni did not inform him of the defect within 2 months (according to the current Italian law),

b) Giovanni could be asked to prove the sofa was defective at the time of delivery (Italian law allows this after 6 months have passed),

c) If repair or replacement is not possible, the seller could refuse to give Giovanni a refund, arguing that the scratches were only a minor defect (under Italian law, consumers cannot terminate a contract and get reimbursed if the defect is minor).

From now on, Giovanni will now be able to

a) ask for a remedy even though he did not inform the seller that there was a defect,

b) ask for a remedy without having to prove that the sofa was defective at the time of delivery (the burden of proof will now lie with the seller for 2 years), or

c) terminate the contract even if the scratches are minor.

Giovanni buys a sofa

With harmonised e-commerce rules buying and selling online will be easier for everyone!

Vĕra Jourová
Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality

Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers