Notwithstanding the fact that the Consumer Rights Directive was published fairly recently with an acceptance that Member States could not reach agreement on common remedies and contract terms, there is a new initiative to create common contract rules for on-line purchases of both digital content and tangible goods. A group comprising 22 EU-level organisations representing consumers, as well as retailers and other businesses, is meeting once a month from January 2015 until July 2015 to discuss the necessity for, and possible content of, new legislation.
Previous proposals for a voluntary Common European Sales Law have been abandoned. The EU’s new Digital Single Market Strategy now envisions fully harmonised law on consumer rights. The Commission is embarking on a “fitness check” of the Consumer Sales and Guarantees Directive, the Unfair Contract Terms Directive and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. Early suggestions include extending the minimum two year time limit for claiming a product is faulty and allowing consumers longer than six months before they have to prove a fault.
Worryingly, there is a stated intention to align the terms for on-line and off-line transactions, which suggests that 14 days to change your mind could be extended to all sales. The Commission’s view is that this is because multi-channel retailers find it difficult to operate differing systems. However, AMDEA’s understanding is that offering multi-channel options allows retailers to cross-subsidise their on-line discounts!
It is worth noting that while the Consumer Rights Directive was unable to achieve sufficient consensus to include fully harmonised contract terms and remedies, only six of the member States (including the UK) are currently offering consumers more than two years in which to claim that goods are faulty.
There is a public consultation with a closing date of 3 September 2015.