23. April 2018
More proposals to improve EU consumer protection have been published despite the fact that previously published draft Directives are far from reaching enactment.
The EC's Junker presidency launched its ambitious programme to create a Digital Single Market (DSM), in November 2014. One of the aims was to create a level playing field for sales to consumers across Member States. As a result, two draft Directives on the supply of digital content and the sale of goods online were published, but agreement is yet to be reached on either of them. While trying to get these finalised, the EC has continued to launch proposals.
The EU has published a Communication on a 'New Deal for Consumers'. The new proposals are part of the DSM initiative on updating consumer law but do not include revised versions of the previously published draft Directives on digital content and the sale of goods online. Two new draft legislative proposals have been put forward:
The primary effect of these Directives would be to introduce GDPR-level fines for breaches of consumer protection law (up to 4% annual turnover in all EU countries in which the breach had an impact), and to introduce an EU class action option for consumers.
Other tasks highlighted as a priority for the Commission, to be accomplished by extending the scope of EU consumer laws, include:
Other elements relate to awareness and capacity building, facilitating international cooperation, and dealing with the problem of 'dual quality' consumer goods (mainly food products).
The EC is also looking at preparing consumer policy to deal with likely challenges, including relating to AI and the IoT, mobile e-commerce and sustainable consumption.
Consumer protection may well be the first significant area in which EU and UK law diverge after Brexit. This will either result in UK traders having to apply one set of rules in the UK and another in the UK, or in the UK agreeing to maintain parity with the EU. If, as seems likely, the latter approach is chosen, UK consumer protection law will almost certainly need to be amended. The developments in this area must be closely watched.