This month the European Commission announced proposals “to ensure that all European consumers fully benefit from their rights under Union law”.
While existing consumer laws give European citizens a theoretically excellent level of protection, there have been concerns that the enforcement of those laws could be better.
So, the Commission is now suggesting more powers for consumer authorities plus a system for collective redress. Protection for on-line buyers is to be enhanced, and there will be more clarity as to when offering items of differing quality becomes misleading (and therefore unlawful).
Among the many proposals is more transparency for on-line sales, such as knowing whether the seller is an individual or a company and if they paid to be ranked higher in search results, and remedies for consumers who are affected by unfair commercial practices, such as aggressive or misleading marketing.
A mechanism to claim collective redress on behalf of multiple consumers harmed by an illegal commercial practice will be extended to all Member States. The Commission is clear that the EU system will not resemble USA class actions, since only not for profit organisations approved by a public authority will be authorised to make such claims.
On the plus side for businesses, consumers will no longer be able to return products that they have already used, and traders will be able to insist on receiving returned goods before they issue refunds.
These proposals will now be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council.