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Is your website in compliance with EU consumer laws?

DATE: 24.06.2011


The European Commission has recently undertaken an “EU sweep” to identify whether websites selling electronic goods in Member States are compliant with EU consumer protection laws.  Apart from Slovakia, all EU member states together with Norway and Iceland took part in this sweep.  The European Commission elected to “sweep” websites involved in the sale of electronic goods as it is among the most popular product categories bought online.  The investigation involved reviewing websites selling six of the most popular electronic goods including digital cameras, mobile phones, computer equipment and game consoles.

The results of this investigation have indicated that over half of the 369 websites reviewed were found to be in breach of EU consumer protection laws.  Interestingly, 6 of the 15 Irish websites which were investigated were found to be in breach of EU consumer protection laws.

The following directives provided the legal basis for the sweep carried out by the European Commission: (i) the Distance Selling Directive 1997/7/EC; (ii) the E-Commerce Directive 2000/31/EC and (iii) the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive 2005/29/EC.

The most common problems found during this sweep include:

(i) websites not containing any information, or misleading information in relation to the right of a consumer to withdraw from the online contract;

(ii) websites containing misleading information on the legal right to have a faulty product repaired or replaced, or the right for a consumer to obtain a refund;

(iii) the initial price of the product disclosed on the website not including information in relation to additional costs (such as deliver charges);

(iv) the initial price display containing deceptive information or not including applicable taxes; and

(v) missing or incomplete contact details of the online trader.

As a result of this sweep, the offending websites will be asked to amend their websites accordingly so that they are in compliance with EU consumer laws.  Iceland, Norway and Latvia elected to publish the names of the companies whose websites were reviewed as part of this sweep.  While Ireland has not yet followed suit, the National Consumer Agency (who carried out the Irish section of the review) has indicated that it would have no problem “naming and shaming” the companies which formed part of the Irish investigation.

While this sweep was confined to the market of the online sale of electronic goods it raises the question, how many other EU websites are not in compliance with EU consumer laws?




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