Fitness Check of EU consumer law on digital fairness
In its 2020 consumer policy strategy, the “New Consumer Agenda”, the Commission announced that it will analyse whether additional legislation or other action is needed in the medium-term to ensure equal fairness online and offline. For that reason, the Commission launched in spring 2022 a Fitness Check of EU consumer law on digital fairness. It will determine whether the existing key horizontal consumer law instruments remain adequate for ensuring a high level of consumer protection in the digital environment. The Fitness Check will evaluate the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, Consumer Rights Directive and Unfair Contract Terms Directive. It examines the adequacy of these Directives in dealing with consumer protection issues such as consumer vulnerabilities, dark patterns, personalisation practices, influencer marketing, contract cancellations, subscription service contracts, marketing of virtual items, the addictive use of digital products, and others. It evaluates whether the existing Directives would benefit from a targeted strengthening or streamlining, while taking into account other relevant legislation in the digital area and ensuring coherence. It will also examine the scope for any burden reduction, cost savings and simplification.
The Commission will consult the public through several consultation activities, including a Call for Evidence and a public consultation.
The Fitness Check will also be supported by an external study and existing analyses, such as the behavioural study on unfair commercial practices in the digital environment.
Annual Digital Consumer Event 2022
The European Commission will use its 2nd Annual Digital Consumer Event on 21 November 2022 to discuss with academics, consumer and business associations, as well as authorities, the problems consumers currently face in the digital transition. Participants will discuss whether current EU rules, in particular the Consumer Rights Directive, the Unfair Contract Terms Directive and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, continue to be effective.
The European Commission has adopted four Notices providing guidance on the application of the following EU consumer directives:
- Unfair Commercial Practices Directive
- Consumer Rights Directive
- Price Indication Directive (Article 6a)
- Unfair Contract Terms Directive
As announced in the New Consumer Agenda, the Commission updated its guidance most recently on 17 December 2021 to take into account changes made to the directives by the New Deal for Consumers package and to explain the application of EU consumer law to new developments in key areas, in particular concerning the digital and green transitions.
For the digital area, the Commission provided additional legal interpretation in the guidance on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and on the Consumer Rights Directive concerning practices in digital markets, such as data-driven personalisation, dark patterns, influencer marketing, consumer reviews, as well as obligations of online platforms and marketplaces.
Regarding the green transition, the Commission updated existing sections on environmental claims and planned obsolescence in the guidance on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.
New Deal for Consumers
The “New Deal for Consumers” initiative aimed at strengthening enforcement of EU consumer law in light of a growing risk of EU-wide infringements and at modernizing EU consumer protection rules in view of market developments. It included a communication and two proposals (COM(2018) 184, COM(2018) 185). The Commission adopted it on 11 April 2018.
Two EU instruments have been adopted following the ‘New Deal for Consumers’ initiative.
The Directive on better enforcement and modernization of EU consumer protection was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council on 27 November 2019 (Factsheet - New Deal: What benefits will I get as a consumer?).
Member States had to transpose the new rules in their national laws by 28 November 2021 and must apply these new national laws from 28 May 2022.
The Directive on Representative Actionswas adopted on 25 November 2020.
The Member States will have until 25 December 2022 to transpose the Directive into their national legal orders and until 25 June 2023 to apply national provisions transposing the Directive.
Impact assessment and evaluation (Fitness Check)
The legislative proposals of the New Deal package were based on an Impact Assessment, supported by a public consultation:
- Public consultation on the targeted revision of EU consumer law directives
- Impact assessment - New Deal for Consumers
- Summary of the Impact Assessment - New Deal for Consumers
- Inception impact assessment for the targeted revision of consumer law directives
- Inception impact assessment for the revision of the Injunctions Directive - Ares(2017)5324969
The adoption of the New Deal package follows a comprehensive evaluation of the EU consumer law directives, results of which were published on 29 May 2017.
This evaluation – the Fitness Check – assessed whether the consumer and marketing law directives were still ‘fit for purpose’. A specific evaluation of the Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU was conducted in parallel and also contributed to the conclusions of the Fitness Check.
It was a series of events in the Member States which explained what the EU was doing for consumers and listened to their views on how the EU could tackle their concerns.
- Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers
You can find here factsheets explaining the New Deal for Consumers.