Following an agreement with the European Parliament in March 2019, the Council has now adopted a directive that aims to modernise EU law on consumer protection and to facilitate the enforcement of consumers' rights, including in relation to online transactions.
The Directive provides for various consumer rights, some of which are relevant for dealing with consumers online:
- enhanced transparency in online transactions, in particular in relation to the use of online reviews, personalised pricing based on algorithms or higher ranking of products due to ‘paid placements’;
- the obligation of online marketplaces to inform consumers about whether the responsible trader in a transaction is the seller and/or the online marketplace itself;
- the protection of consumers in respect of 'free' digital services, meaning those for which consumers do not pay money but provide personal data, such as cloud storage, social media and email accounts;
- enhanced harmonisation and streamlining of some of the criteria used to determine the level of penalties for infringements of EU consumer law;
- a right to individual remedies for consumers when they are harmed by unfair commercial practices, such as aggressive marketing;
- clear information for consumers about price reductions;
- the removal of disproportionate burdens, such as the obligation to use outdated means of communication imposed on businesses by existing legislation;
- clarifications on member states' freedom to adopt rules to protect the legitimate interests of consumers in relation to particularly aggressive or misleading marketing or selling practices in the context of off-premises sales;
- clarifications on the way misleading marketing of 'dual quality' products should be dealt with by member states.
The Directive amends the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (2005/29/EC), the Consumer Rights Directive (2011/83/EU), the Unfair Contract Terms Directive (93/13/EEC) and the Price Indications Directive (98/6/EC).
Following the adoption of the new Directive, member states will have 24 months to adopt the measures necessary for its implementation. Those measures will start to apply six months later.