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EU bolsters protection against online fraudsters

15 November 2017, 20:47 CET
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EU bolsters protection against online fraudsters

E-commerce - Image by Varun

(STRASBOURG) - MEPs approved Tuesday EU-wide rules to protect consumers against scams and detect and stop rogue traders more swiftly, with a view to increasing consumers' trust in cross-border e-commerce.

The rules give national enforcement authorities more powers to detect and halt online breaches of consumer protection laws and be able to coordinate their actions better across the EU, under the revised Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) regulation.

They also aim to close legal loopholes, which are exacerbated because consumer protection systems differ from one EU country to the next.

Example of past practices that would be tackled better under the new EU rules are: a cross-border promotion of short duration by an airline which later on cancelled the discounted tickets; a long-term subscription hidden behind an offer to try to win a phone for 1 euro; an online trader not delivering the design furniture it claims to sell - and who relocated 4 times over 3 years; and complaints on car rental prices made to European Consumer Centres showing that consumers are discriminated against based on their country of origin.

The new investigation and enforcement powers would include:

  • requesting information from domain registrars and banks to identify rogue traders,
  • purchasing goods or services as test purchases, including under a cover identity ("mystery shopping"),
  • ordering the explicit display of a warning to consumers, or ordering a hosting service provider to remove, disable or restrict access to an online interface (e.g. website or app) if there are no other effective means to stop an illegal practice,
  • imposing penalties, such as fines or periodic penalty payments,
  • seeking to obtain commitments from the trader to offer adequate remedies to the affected consumers, and informing them of how to seek compensation.

The Commission will coordinate actions in cases where an infringement does or is likely to do harm to the collective interests of consumers in at least two-thirds of the member states, accounting, together, for at least two-thirds of the EU population.

Consumer organisations will also be more involved, playing a proactive role by flagging suspected infringements, since they might know about them earlier than the authorities ("external alerts").

The legislative text now needs to be formally adopted by the EU Council. The regulation will then apply 24 months after the date of its entry into force.

Further information, European Parliament

Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) regulation: the adopted text is available here

Subject file : Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) regulation

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