Sunday, 19 October 2008

EU-wide consumer rights

There is a tendency for the English media to publish only the EU stories which alarm or confuse. Scanning through a backlog of LibDem press releases, I came across an EU good news story which does not seem to have made a splash (except perhaps for the South West and Gibraltar, whose MEP, Graham Watson, issued it).

A fortnight ago, the European Commission moved to empower European shoppers with a single,
simple EU-wide set of consumer rights. Consumers will be able to seek the best value for money anywhere across the EU without falling victim to differing complicated national rules.

The proposal guarantees a right to information before purchase, EU-wide protection against late delivery and non-delivery and a new 14-day cooling off period for distance and pressure sales. Consumers could also rely on EU-wide rules for returns, repairs, refunds and guarantees.

Graham Watson commented: "This is the start of a consumer protection revolution which will transform Europe's fragmented retail market into the level playing field it ought to be.

"The internet means cheaper products are often only a few clicks away, but at the moment real life barriers exist to the virtual marketplace. It is time we give consumers better protection wherever they choose to take their custom.

"These plans mean the current patchwork of measures will be simplified, offering greater peace of mind to consumers. It's also great for businesses who wish to widen sales across the European Union as it cuts out masses of unnecessary and expensive red tape."

The prices of goods in the shops differ widely across Europe. For example, in the UK, electronic goods are often 10.4% more expensive than in the Republic of Ireland.

The Commission proposals mean a distance trader will be able to serve the entire EU market using the same set of contract terms, reducing legal compliance costs.

Introduction of the plans mean UK consumers will benefit from an extension in a "cooling off period" to withdraw from distance- and off-premises-contracts from 7 days to 14 days.

The right for consumers to change their mind will be simplified to a standard web based withdrawal form or via a durable medium. This makes it simple and easy for the consumer and provides them with legal certainty towards the trader.


Anonymous said...

Would be nice to have Europe wide Human Rights.

Frank H Little said...

Human rights are sewn into the EU. It is ironic that the nation which drafted, and drove, the European Convention on Human Rights (which covers more than the EU), should now be trying to unpick it where its own citizens and poorer residents are concerned. That nation, of course, is the United Kingdom.