EU struggles with online consumer rights

Legislators face criticism from consumer groups for failing to take account of downloads

European legislators are struggling to create a law that will protect consumers when they buy online services or content.

The increasingly contentious Consumer Rights Directive will revise European customer protection legislation for national and cross-border contracts. But it has faced criticism from consumer groups for failing to take sufficient account of consumer rights for online digital purchases such as music, video, books and software.

"Online purchases of digital goods must be appropriately covered," said Monique Goyens, director general of the European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC). There are also fears that the proposed directive could in fact weaken protection in some countries, by undermining legal guarantees and protection against unfair contracts for downloads.

Preliminary agreement on the draft directive was reached last month between the European Commission and member states. However, members of the European Parliament are now examining the proposals and must give their approval before any law can be implemented.

"We want to take into account the new set of products that are often bought online, but we have not yet found the right solution," said Andreas Schwab, a German center-right MEP who is leading the European Parliament’s work on the topic. "The difficulty is that if you buy a digital product, for example, a film, you can either buy it as a DVD or you can download it. After buying a DVD, it’s very easy to check if you have used it because the seal hasn’t been broken, but if you download it, so far there is no technical system to check if you have viewed it."

One proposed option is a "button" that consumers would have to click on before they pay for an item. However, a survey last month by international legal practice Allen & Overy found that more than half of European online consumers do not read terms and conditions before clicking on such boxes.

Furthermore, 26 percent said that laws governing terms and conditions worry them when buying online. But 50 percent said the security of the website/payment was a worry and 34 percent cited the ease of returning goods as a priority.

Currently there is a standard 14-day "cooling off" period during which consumers can withdraw from a contract. The revised directive proposes a standard withdrawal form to make it easier for consumers to pull out of a contract. It also includes a ban on all pre-ticked boxes that apply to payments, such as for express delivery in distance selling or travel insurance, priority boarding and baggage when booking a flight. Consumers will have the right to be reimbursed the extra payments to which they have not actively agreed.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags e-commercelegalgovernmentinternet

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jennifer Baker

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?