The European Commission has launched the eYouGuide
, a new online tool giving practical advice on the digital rights that consumers have under EU law. As well as online retailing, the guide addresses other issues such as consumers' rights with their broadband provider, downloading music and protecting personal data online and on social networking sites.
A new Eurobarometer survey, announced at the same time, has found that a lack of confidence still holds many European consumers back from online transactions:
- Only 12% of EU web users feel safe making transactions on the internet, 39% of EU internet users have major doubts about safety and 42% do not dare carry out financial transactions online.
- 65% of internet users in the EU do not know where to get information and advice about cross-border shopping in the EU.
- A third of consumers would consider buying online from another country because it is cheaper or better, but only 7% actually do so.
Giving consumers clear information about their rights will increase trust and help unlock the full economic potential of Europe's single online market, worth €106 billion in revenues, says the EU.
"In the EU, consumer rights online should not depend on where a company or website is based," says Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "National borders should no longer complicate European consumers' lives when they go online to buy a book or download a song. In spite of progress made, we need to ensure that there is a single market for consumers as well as businesses on the web."
Meglena Kuneva, the EU Consumer Commissioner, added that "If we want consumers to shop around and exploit the potential of digital communications, then we need to give them confidence that their rights are guaranteed. That means putting in place and enforcing clear consumer rights that meet the high standards already existing in the main street. Internet has everything to offer consumers, but we need to build trust so that people can shop around with peace of mind".
The eYouGuide sets out the rights of European consumers surfing the web or shopping online. Key points are that European consumers have a right to:
- Clear information about prices and conditions before making a purchase
- Decide if and how their personal data is treated
- Delivery within 30 days of purchase
- A cooling-off period of at least seven working days after purchase, during which consumers can change their mind
- A minimum two year guarantee on products purchased
- Protection against rogue vendors, unfair contract terms and unfair commercial practices
"Consumers can be sure that all these rights apply on any website that ends with the suffix '.eu'," the official announcement explains. "Unlike websites ending with .com or .net, a website ending with .eu (the EU top level domain opened in 2006, now at 3m sites, IP/09/536), must be registered by a person or company established in one of the 27 EU Member States and is subject to EU laws."
Commissioners Reding and Kuneva also highlighted gaps in EU rules where consumer confidence and the single market for businesses could be further enhanced. In a joint 'Digital Agenda', the two commissioners identify eight priority areas for possible EU action:
- Combating spam with similarly effective civil and criminal sanctions in all EU Member States and neighbouring countries.
- Ensuring that, for consumers, it does not matter which EU country digital content (music, games, films, books) comes from, by paving the way for multi-territorial licensing regimes for online content.
- Giving consumers certainty about what they can and cannot do with the copyrighted songs, videos and films they download, by ending the current fragmentation of laws on 'private copying'.
- Extending the principles of consumer protection rules to cover licensing agreements of products like software downloaded for virus protection, games or other licensed content. Licensing should guarantee consumers the same basic rights as when they purchase goods: the right to get a product that works with fair commercial conditions.
- Guarantee that privacy policies linked to online offers are properly disclosed and have fair contract terms.
- Tackling fragmented and incomplete rules on e-accessibility to make it easier for disabled people (15% of the EU population) to use websites, electronic payments and other online services.
- Explore opportunities to strengthen confidence in online payments, including successful models such as credit card chargeback schemes that allow customers to cancel payments to non-compliant traders as a last resort.
- Working with industry and consumer associations to set up a European system of trustmarks for retail websites that comply with best practices.