The EU negotiators reached an informal agreement in trialogue on the Proposal for a Directive on Better enforcement and modernization of EU consumer rules (the so-called Omnibus Directive). The legislative proposal for the Directive was published on 11 April 2018 as part of the European Commission’s New Deal for Consumers package.
Even though the text of the agreement is not yet available, some elements have been already disclosed. EU policymakers agreed that online marketplaces (for example Amazon) and comparison services (for example Skyscanner) will have to disclose the main parameters that determine the ranking of offers on the websites as a result of a consumer’s search query. In addition, information on who is selling a certain product or service will have to be clearly displayed to consumers before they purchase a product or service. The agreement also covers online reviews and any misleading statements about reviews, without taking reasonable measures to ensure their accuracy, are now added to the “blacklist” of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.
Furthermore, the Directive also introduces a maximum lump sum of two million euros for penalties in cases where information on turnover is not available. However, when such information is available the penalty will amount to 4% of the trader’s annual turnover in the previous financial year in the Member State(s) concerned.
Moreover, this Directive also deals with the issue of dual quality of products. This is a situation in which the same products, marketed under the same brand, have different composition or characteristics. According to the agreement reached, any significant difference will have to be made clear and visible to the consumer at the time of purchase. Two years from the date of entry into application, the Commission will have to review the implementation of this provision and determine whether dual quality of products issue needs to be added to the blacklist of unfair commercial practices.
Even though Ecommerce Europe still needs to assess the text of the agreement – once it is made available – the European e-commerce association regrets that the Directive will not help reduce administrative burdens for online shops in relation to the abuse of the right of withdrawal. In fact, the European Commission originally proposed to counter the abusive behavior of returning goods that have been subject to misuse or overuse by consumers beyond what is needed by them to assess the product, as they would do in a physical shop. However, the correction proposed by the Commission has not been retained and businesses, especially SMEs, will still experience burdens in relation to this behavior.
This provisional agreement now needs to be confirmed by the Member States’ ambassadors (Coreper) and the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee. Finally, after their approval, the agreement must be officially approved by the European Parliament’s Plenary and the EU Council of Ministers.