Enterprise Europe Network

Belgique | Wallonie

 

 

 

SME panel consultation - Targeted revision of EU consumer law  

 

 

The Commission has recently completed a so called 'Fitness Check' of EU Consumer and Marketing Law and an evaluation of the Consumer Rights Directive (see the results here: http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/just/item-detail.cfm?item_id=59332).

 

The findings confirmed that overall EU consumer law remains fit for purpose. When applied effectively, the existing rules tackle the problems that European consumers are facing today, also in online markets. However, the findings also point to the need to improve awareness, enforcement of the rules and redress opportunities to make the best of the existing legislation.

 

On 30 June 2017, the Commission launched an open public consultation seeking stakeholders' views on all of the possible follow-up. The public consultation is open until 8 October 2017. You may want to reply to it at the following link: https://ec.europa.eu/info/consultations/public-consultation-targeted-revision-eu-consumer-law-directives_en

 

In addition, the Commission is seeking views specifically from SMEs by means of this survey to understand the potential impacts that the envisaged legislative changes may have on SMEs which sell goods or services to consumers in Europe. 

 

To make it easier for you, we have organised the survey in such a way that you can choose to answer either all parts or only the main questionnaire and/or the specific questionnaire(s) which you consider more relevant to you

 

This survey for SMEs is divided into three parts:

 


 

 

A.THE FIRST PART CONTAINS 'QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU' (maximum 10 questions)

 

These questions will guide you to the questions that are most relevant for your enterprise

 

 

A1. Dans quelle province, votre entreprise est-elle établie?

A2. Quelle est la taille de votre entreprise?

A3. Quel est le CA approximatif de votre entreprise pour le dernier exercice?

A4.Votre entreprise vend-t-elle des biens et/ou des services au consommateur final?

A5.Quelle est l'activité principale de votre entreprise ?

If "Other" above, please specify:

A6.Which sales channel(s) do(es) your enterprise use to sell to consumers in the EU? [more than one choice possible]

If "Other" above, please specify:

A7a. [If you replied "Online" in Question 6]
Does your enterprise use online marketplaces to sell your products/services?

A7b. [If you replied "Provision of services" in Question 5 and "online" in Question 6]
Does your enterprise provide "free" online services?

For information - "Free" online services refer to online services for which consumers do not pay with money but provide data (e.g. cloud storage, e-learning, social media, email, communication services).

A8. Does your enterprise's business activity involve sales to the following markets? Please tick all boxes that apply.

A8a. [If you replied "online" in Question 6 and "Markets in other EU countries" in Question 7]
To how many EU countries do you sell?

 

 

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B.THE SECOND PART CONTAINS 'THE GENERAL QUESTIONNAIRE' (7 questions).

 

 

B.1. Redress/remedies opportunities for consumers who are victims of unfair commercial practices

 

["Redress/remedies" refers to what consumers can get to remedy the situation when their consumer rights have been breached (e.g. terminating the contract, getting their money back)]

Current EU rules do not give consumers who have suffered harm from unfair commercial practices, such as misleading advertising, any individual rights to remedy their situation. Furthermore, the consumer's right to remedies/redress for harm caused by unfair commercial practices are not always sufficiently guaranteed under national law. Different and ineffective national rules on remedies/redress lead to costs for traders engaging in cross-border trade and detriment for consumers resulting from continued existence of many breaches of the law on national and cross-border level. These problems lead to lack of consumer trust in purchasing, particularly cross-border.

B1.1. Should there be an EU-wide right for consumers to claim remedies directly from the traders who have harmed them with their unfair commercial practices?

 

B1.1a. Please explain your reply.

 

 

B1.2. Please estimate the resources your enterprise needs to invest, when selling to another EU country, to check compliance with and adjust business practices to national rules related to remedies for consumers that have been harmed by unfair commercial practices?

You may wish to answer either in staff time or in amount in Euros, or both.

 

 

One-off costs: Please estimate the one-off resources you need to invest in order to enter a new EU market, on average per Member State.

Regular costs: Please estimate the resources you need to invest on a regular basis to comply with different national rules, on average per Member State.

(Note: Please indicate in working days, with 1 working day equalling 8 hours of staff time. Please do not consider staff time for translation. If no staff time was involved, indicate ‘0’.)

 

 

B1.3.Do these costs (resources needed) have an impact on your decision to enter other EU markets or not?

 

 

B1.4 If a new EU rule was introduced to grant consumers an EU-wide right to claim remedies directly from the trader who has harmed them with unfair commercial practices, would this have an impact on your enterprise's decision to enter other EU markets?

 

B1.5. Please estimate the resources your enterprise would need to invest due to a possible new EU consumer right to claim remedies for harm suffered from unfair commercial practices?

You may wish to answer either in staff time or Euros, or both in case you incur staff and other costs.

 

 

B1.6. Please estimate the savings for your enterprise of introducing an EU wide right to individual remedies for victims of unfair commercial practices?

Working days of staff (full time equivalent)

You may wish to answer either in staff time or Euros, or both in case you incur staff and other costs.

 

One-off savings: Please indicate the one-off resources you would save with this new rules (e.g. no longer having to check compliance with different rules and adjusting business practices as a result (e.g. update your website), costs of legal/technical advice)

Regular savings: Please estimate the regular resources you would save with this new rule. (e.g. manage the updated website)

(Note: Please indicate in working days, with 1 working day equalling 8 hours of staff time. Please do not consider staff time for translation. If no staff time was involved, indicate ‘0’.)

 

B1.7. Please feel free to explain your replies and add any other comment

B.2. section: Better enforcement - Strengthening penalties for breaches of consumer rules

 

"Penalties" refers to a punishment imposed or to be imposed for a violation of consumer protection rules.

"Fines" refers to monetary penalties.

Penalties for lack of compliance with consumer law, as foreseen under national law, are not always effective, proportionate and dissuasive enough to prevent lack of compliance by traders, which leads to consumer detriment. Penalties represent an important part of national enforcement systems, as they have an impact on the degree of deterrence provided by public enforcement. Today, fines for breaches of consumer law vary significantly between Member States, both as regards the way in which they are calculated and their maximum level.

 

B2.1. Do you consider that in your country the fines imposed for the following breaches of EU consumer law are in general proportionate compared to the traders' economic strength (for example in terms of turn-over)?

 

B2.2 In your view, which of the following measures is the most proportionate, effective and dissuasive, taking into account the trader's economic strength (for example in terms of turnover)? (single-choice question)

B2.3 In your view, what would be the impact of strengthening penalties under EU consumer protection law on the following?

 

B2.4 What would be the impact of strengthening penalties at EU level on the costs of your enterprise?

 

B2.5 Please feel free to explain your replies and add any other comment.

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C. SPECIFIC QUESTIONNAIRES

 

According to your replies in the first part ("questions about you"), the following questionnaires appear most relevant for your enterprise:

 

  • Your enterprise sells goods online or is interested in doing so? (for example, you have filled in "Sale of goods" in question 5 and "online (over the internet)" in question 6).

You may also want to fill in the specific questionnaire C.1.  "Possible simplification of existing rules concerning online transactions – in particular on the rules on the right of withdrawal" (maximum 4 questions)

  • Your enterprise is an online market place or is selling through online market places, or it is interested in doing so? (for example, you have filled in "Online market place" in Question 5 or "yes" in Question 6a)

You may want to fill in the specific questionnaire C.2. "Targeted revision of rules on the transparency obligations of online marketplaces" (maximum 12 questions)

  • Your enterprise provides free online services or is interested in doing so? (for example, you have filled in "yes' in Question 6b)

You may want to fill in the specific questionnaire C.3. "Targeted revision of rules on "free" online services" (maximum 11 questions)

 

 

C.1. Possible simplification of existing rules on online transactions, in particular the rules on the right of withdrawal

 

Right of withdrawal - right for the consumer to cancel the contract concluded online within 14 days

 

In the evaluation of the Consumer Rights Directive (CRD), some businesses, and especially SMEs, reported specific burdens in complying with the 14-days right of withdrawal (the "cooling-off" period during which consumers may cancel the order and return products bought online). Specifically, some of them criticise the CRD rule which requires the trader to refund the consumer as soon as the consumer provides evidence of having returned the goods. As a consequence, the trader may have to refund the consumer before he is in a position to determine whether the goods have been used more than necessary to try them out and therefore have a diminished value.

 

C1.1a. <If you replied "yes" to the previous question>

Which of the following problems has your enterprise faced?

 

C1.1. Over the last two years, has your enterprise faced unnecessary and/or disproportionate burdens due to the following obligations related to the right of withdrawal (right for the consumer to cancel the contract within 14 days)?

 

 

C1.1b. What are your enterprise's estimated losses related to the previously mentioned obligations?

 

 

C1.2 Please feel free to explain your replies and add any other comment.

 

C.2. Targeted revision of transparency obligations for online marketplaces

 

An ‘online marketplace’, in the following questions, is a service provider which allows consumers and traders to conclude online sales and service contracts on its website.

 

The Fitness Check and the evaluation of the Consumer Rights Directive (CRD) showed that some consumers are confused when using online marketplaces. Firstly, it often seems unclear whether consumers buy from the platform itself or from someone else. Secondly, it is often not clear whether the contracting party acts as a trader, and is therefore subject to EU consumer law, or as a non-trader, against whom EU consumer rights cannot be invoked. For example, in a case leading to a reference for a preliminary ruling at the Court of Justice of the European Union, a consumer buying on a platform was denied the right to withdraw from the contract under the Consumer Rights Directive. Only then did the consumer learn that the seller was claiming not to be a trader (Case C-105/17 Kamenova)

 

 

 

C2.1. Does your enterprise incur costs when trading or considering to trade with consumers cross-border due to the following? 

 

C2.2 What are your estimated costs due to a need to adapt to different national rules related to information obligations on online 'marketplaces' about the following?

You may wish to answer either in staff time or in amount of Euros, or both in case you incur staff and other costs.

 

One-off costs: Please estimate the one-off resources you need to invest in order to enter a new EU market, on average per Member State.

Regular costs: Please estimate the resources you need to invest on a regular basis to comply with different national rules, on average per Member State.

(Note: Please indicate in working days, with 1 working day equalling 8 hours of staff time. Please do not consider staff time for translation. If no staff time was involved, indicate ‘0’.)

 

 

C2.4. Please explain in particular the nature of your other costs/activities. If you cannot quantify the resources involved, please describe the needed adjustments.

 

 

C2.5. Do these costs have an impact on your enterprise's decision to enter other EU markets or not?

 

 

C2.6. Do you agree that, across the EU, consumers buying on online marketplaces should be informed about the following?

 

 

C2.7. If new harmonised EU rules were introduced requiring online marketplaces to inform consumers about who their contracting party is and whether they enjoy EU consumer rights vis-à-vis that person/entity, would this have an impact on your enterprise's decision to enter other EU markets?

 

C2.8. Please estimate the costs you think your enterprise would face to comply with such new requirements.

 

You may wish to answer either in staff time or Euros, or both in case you incur staff and other costs

 

 

One-off costs: Please indicate the one-off resources you would need to invest to ensure compliance with this new rule. (e.g. checking compliance with the new rules and adjusting business practices as a result (e.g. update your website), costs of legal/technical advice)

Regular costs: Please estimate the resources you would need to invest on a regular basis to comply with this new rule. (e.g. manage the updated website)

Note: Please indicate staff time in working days, whereby 1 working day = 8 hours of staff time. Please do not consider staff time for translation. If no staff time is involved, indicate ‘0’.)

 

C2.9 Please explain in particular the nature of your costs/activities. If you cannot quantify the resources involved, please describe the needed adjustments:

 

 

C2.10 Please estimate the savings for your enterprise of introducing new requirements for online marketplaces to inform consumers about who their contracting party is and whether they enjoy EU consumer rights vis-à-vis that person/entity.

 

You may wish to answer either in staff time or Euros, or both in case you incur staff and other costs.

 

 

 

One-off savings: Please indicate the one-off resources you would save with this new rules (e.g. no longer having to check compliance with different rules and adjusting business practices as a result (e.g. update your website), costs of legal/technical advice)

 

Regular savings: Please estimate the regular resources you would save with this new rule. (e.g. manage the updated website)

 

(Note: Please indicate in working days, with 1 working day equalling 8 hours of staff time. Please do not consider staff time for translation. If no staff time was involved, indicate ‘0’.)

 

 

C2.11. If such new requirements were introduced, what should be the consequences for online marketplaces that fail to comply?

 

C2.12. Please feel free to explain your replies and add any other comment.

 

C.3.  Targeted revision of rules on "free" online services

 

"Free" online services in the following questions refer to online services for which consumers do not pay with money but provide data (e.g. cloud storage, e-learning, social media, email, streaming services).

 

The rules under the Consumer Rights Directive (CRD) on pre-contractual information requirements for traders and the 14-days right of withdrawal for consumers apply to all contracts for online provision of digital content (e.g. downloads of software, movies or songs) irrespective of whether the consumer pays with money. On the other hand, these rules only apply to contracts for online services (such as subscriptions to cloud storage services or social networks) for which the consumer pays with money. This calls for discussion of whether consumer protection under the CRD should be extended also to contracts for online services for which the consumer provides data and does not pay with money. In this respect, the upcoming EU rules on consumer remedies regarding 'defective' digital products (rules that are currently negotiated by the European Parliament and the Council) may cover online services irrespectively of whether the consumer pays with money or not.

 

 

 

C3.1. Does your enterprise incur costs when trading cross-border due to the following?

 

 

C3.2 Please explain your reply.

in particular, indicate in which Member State(s) you face costs for complying with national rules requiring you to give pre-contractual information to consumers and/or enabling them to withdraw from "free" online service contracts shortly after the contract has been concluded (e.g. within 14 days).

 

 

C3.3 How much staff time or other resources does your enterprise need, when entering another EU country's market, for complying with national rules of the other Member State requiring you to give pre-contractual information to consumers and/or enabling them to withdraw from their "free" online service contracts shortly after having concluded the contact (e.g. within 14 days)?

 

You may wish to answer either in staff time or Euros, or both in case you incur staff and other costs.

 

 

One-off costs: Please estimate the one-off resources you need to invest in order to enter a new EU market, on average per Member State (e.g. checking compliance with national rules and adjusting business practices as a result (e.g. update your website), costs of legal/technical advice).

 

Regular costs: Please estimate the resources you need to invest on a regular basis to comply with different national rules, on average per country (e.g. handling consumer complaints/ enquiries, monitoring national rules)

Note: Please indicate staff time in working days, whereby 1 working day = 8 hours of staff time. Please do not consider staff time for translation. If no staff time is involved, indicate ‘0’

 

 

C3.4 Do the resources that you need have an impact on your enterprise's decision to enter other EU markets or not?

 

 

C3.5 If a new EU rule was introduced requiring you to give pre-contractual information to consumers about "free" online service contracts, would this have an impact on your enterprise's decision to enter other EU markets?

 

 

C3.6 Please estimate the resources you think you would need to invest to comply with a requirement to give pre-contractual information to consumers about "free" online service contracts.

 

(e.g. checking compliance with the new rules and adjusting business practices as a result (e.g. update your website), costs of legal/technical advice)

 

You may wish to answer either in staff time or Euros, or both in case you incur staff and other costs.

 

One-off costs: Please indicate the one-off resources you would need to invest to ensure compliance with this new rule. (e.g. checking compliance with the new rules and adjusting business practices as a result (e.g. update your website), costs of legal/technical advice)

 

Regular costs: Please estimate the resources you would need to invest on a regular basis to comply with this new rule. (e.g. manage the updated website)

 

(Note: Please indicate in working days, with 1 working day equalling 8 hours of staff time. Please do not consider staff time for translation. If no staff time was involved, indicate ‘0’.)

 

 

C3.7 Please estimate the savings for your enterprise of a new requirement to give consumers pre-contractual information about "free" online service contracts?

 

You may wish to answer either in staff time or Euros, or both in case you incur staff and other costs.

 

 

One-off savings: Please indicate the one-off resources you would save with this new rules (e.g. no longer having to check compliance with different rules and adjusting business practices as a result (e.g. update your website), costs of legal/technical advice)

 

Regular savings: Please estimate the regular resources you would save with this new rule. (e.g. manage the updated website)

 

(Note: Please indicate in working days, with 1 working day equalling 8 hours of staff time. Please do not consider staff time for translation. If no staff time was involved, indicate ‘0’.)

 

 

C3.8 If a new EU rule was introduced to extend the right of withdrawal to "free" online services in all Member States (i.e. consumers would be able to cancel, for any reason, such "free" contracts within 14 days), would this have an impact on your enterprise's decision to enter other EU markets?

 

 

C3.9 Please estimate the resources you think you would need to invest to comply with a right of withdrawal for "free" online services.

 

You may wish to answer either in staff time or Euros, or both in case you incur staff and other costs.

 

 

One-off costs: Please indicate the one-off resources you would need to invest to ensure compliance with this new rule. (e.g. checking compliance with the new rules and adjusting business practices as a result (e.g. update your website), costs of legal/technical advice)

 

Regular costs: Please estimate the resources you would need to invest on a regular basis to comply with this new rule. (e.g. manage the updated website)

 

(Note: Please indicate in working days, with 1 working day equalling 8 hours of staff time. Please do not consider staff time for translation. If no staff time was involved, indicate ‘0’.)

 

 

C3.10 Please estimate the savings for your enterprise of introducing a right of withdrawal for "free" online services?

 

You may wish to answer either in staff time or Euros, or both in case you incur staff and other costs.

 

 

One-off savings: Please indicate the one-off resources you would save with this new rules (e.g. no longer having to check compliance with different rules and adjusting business practices as a result (e.g. update your website), costs of legal/technical advice)

 

Regular savings: Please estimate the regular resources you would save with this new rule. (e.g. manage the updated website)

 

(Note: Please indicate in working days, with 1 working day equalling 8 hours of staff time. Please do not consider staff time for translation. If no staff time was involved, indicate ‘0’.)

C3.11.  Please feel free to explain your replies and add any other comment.