Recently, the European Commission (EC) opened a public consultation for all citizens and organisations with regard to a revision of EU consumer law. The consultation once again demonstrates the EC’s focus on the digital economy − half of the consultation’s proposed legislative changes are related to the digital economy. These changes concern, inter alia, transparency of consumer contracts for online platforms and ‘paying’ with data instead of money online. The latter is also addressed by the proposal for a Digital Content Directive (COM 2015/0634).

Background and Goal of the Consultation

The EC has just concluded a Fitness Check of European consumer and marketing laws and an evaluation of the Consumer Rights Directive. In general, the EC found that the consumer and marketing laws are still fit for their purpose.  However, the information gathered during these assessments also pointed to areas where legislative changes could be necessary to further fine-tune these laws. Examples include:

  • “providing more transparency on whom consumers conclude contracts with when buying on online platforms (online marketplaces) and whether EU consumer rights are applicable to such contracts
  • extension of some consumer rights to contracts for online services where consumers provide data instead of paying with money.”

The present consultation collects the views of citizens and organisations on the legislative changes listed above. Furthermore, it aims to collect information on problems to be addressed by the legislative changes, various options for policy interventions and the likely impacts of these interventions. Finally, the consultation contains questions related to national rules banning doorstep selling.

Platform-to-Business Relations?

The EC also announced that it will take further action in the area of B2B relations within the Digital Single Market context. Specifically, it will focus on “platform-to-business relations.” It is not yet clear what this term means and which specific actions the EC will take in this area. Businesses should however be on the lookout for legislative proposals from the EC in this new area.

Contributing to the Consultation

Citizens and organizations can contribute to the consultation by submitting the online consultation form in any official EU language. Respondents can submit the consultation form anonymously. The consultation form is made up of a short survey and an optional survey that is more detailed. The short survey contains 45 multiple choice questions and several blank spaces for respondents to explain their replies to the multiple choice questions.

An example of one of the multiple choice questions reads:

“In your professional experience, do consumers experience harm (e.g. financial and/or time loss, psychological harm) when buying on online marketplaces due to the following problems: Consumer was denied the right to cancel the order and return the product within 14 days.”

Consultation Term

This consultation is open until 8 October 2017. The EC then expects to propose follow-up legislation by the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018.