Retail: national different rules. Retailers are disappointed with Council approach to rules on the sale of goods. Retailers voiced their disappointment at the general approach adopted by the Council on the proposal on contracts for the sale of goods and consumer guarantees.
Christian Verschueren, Director-General of EuroCommerce said: “The Council has missed an important opportunity in discarding the fully harmonised approach proposed by the Commission, and opting for minimum harmonisation. Instead of modernising consumer protection, the Council approach maintains major national differences. This will do nothing to reduce existing barriers to cross-border ecommerce, holding back the development of a properly-functioning digital market in Europe and denying consumers and businesses its massive potential benefits.
We have repeatedly reiterated our support for full harmonisation at a proportionate level and we regret that the Council has stepped back from following this path. Full harmonisation would ensure trust for both consumers and businesses, including equal treatment of all consumers irrespective of their country, and simple and predictable rules for business. If rules remain different across the EU, cross-border online shopping will never fully take off as fragmented rules will always be confusing for both consumers and traders. The differences in national law and a reluctance to change rules on jurisdiction mean that the Geoblocking Regulation requires traders to sell to anyone, but not to deliver, which renders it largely useless for consumers and traders. Full harmonisation would have resolves much of this problem.”
The agreement raises many other issues, such as a longer period of the reversal of burden of proof on the retailer, sellers needing to provide a guarantee of the durability of goods, and provide security updates on smart goods they sell. This will all come with a cost to sellers, making it even more difficult for them to compete with the flood of cheap, unsafe and non-conforming products sold direct to consumers from China. This threatens the survival of many retailers, but no one has come up with any effective policy solution to the issue.
Verschueren added: “Europe is still way behind China and the US in what is already a global digital market. Holding back the digital single market in this way is an ‘own goal’ for Europe, and the wrong policy turn for building up our economic competitiveness.”