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EU set to clamp down on online scams

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EU set to clamp down on online scams

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(BRUSSELS) - EU ministers agreed Monday a general approach to strengthen cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws in the digital age.

Consumer authorities need to be equipped with the right tools to generate and preserve confidence in the internal market, Malta's Economy Minister Dr Chris Cardona said for the EU presidency: "This proposal is about trust, trade and innovation", he added. "Trust in e-commerce by consumers and companies is essential if the European economy is to grow."

The proposal aims to bring cooperation mechanisms up to date in order to reduce harm caused to consumers by cross-border infringements to EU consumer law.

The EU executive says consumer protection rules have to respond to the online environment and development of cross-border retail trade in the EU.

This revision of the existing Consumer Protection Cooperation framework gives more powers to national authorities, to for example check if websites 'geo-block' consumers, order the immediate take-down of websites hosting scams or request information from domain registrars and banks to detect the identity of the responsible trader.

In case of EU-wide breaches of consumer rights, national enforcement authorities and the Commission will coordinate common actions to stop these practices, in particular in cases of widespread infringements with Union-dimension which are likely to harm consumers in a large part of the EU.

Ineffective enforcement of cross-border infringements, online in particular, enables traders to evade enforcement by relocating within the Union, giving rise to a distortion of competition for law-abiding traders operating either domestically or cross-border, and thus directly harming consumers and undermining consumer confidence in the single market.

An increased level of harmonisation setting effective and efficient enforcement cooperation among public enforcement authorities is therefore necessary to detect, investigate and order the cessation of intra-Union infringements and widespread infringements.

In order to further harmonise practices across the EU, the future regulation will set out a number of minimum investigation and enforcement powers that every national competent authority will have to be able to exercise in order to coordinate properly in the fight against infringements.

These powers will, says the Commission, strike a balance between the interests protected by fundamental rights such as a high level of consumer protection, the freedom to conduct business and freedom of information.

The mutual assistance mechanism between administrations will be strengthened to establish whether an intra-EU infringement has occurred and to bring an end to that infringement.

An improved alert mechanism will allow a competent authority to notify without delay the Commission and other competent authorities of any reasonable suspicion that an intra-Union infringement or widespread infringement is taking place on its territory that may affect consumers' interests in other member states.

Competent authorities will also be able to open investigations on their own initiative if they become aware of intra-Union infringements or widespread infringements by means other than individual consumer complaints.

The 'general approach' means the the Council can now begin talks with the European Parliament under the EU's ordinary legislative procedure. The European Parliament's consumer protection committee is to vote on its position on 21 March.

Draft regulation on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws - General approach

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