Increased protection when buying online, introduction of collective compensation in all European countries, more dissuasive penalties and contrast to the double quality standard of products. These are the benefits that Europeans can take advantage of. In fact, Tuesday, January 22, the MEPs approved the draft report for a “Better application and update of the European standards for consumer protection”. This project is part of the revision of the four European directives known as “New Deal for consumers” and whose purpose is to counter the differences between European countries.

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The update aims to strengthen consumer protection through the introduction of collective compensation and the imposition of more dissuasive penalties for companies that engage in unfair behaviour. It also responds to the legislative gap in the event that there is no law at European level, especially for the online world, as well as for the double standard of quality of products on the market. 

Here are the advantages point by point: 

When shopping online, consumers need to be explicitly informed about who is selling that product or service and whether it is a merchant or another consumer so that it is clear from the beginning on who to drop responsibility and what the correct laws to be applied are. In addition, the “New Deal for Consumers” ensures further transparency on the results of online searches. Users will receive accurate information regarding the positioning of a product or service in the search results and will clearly know if the order in which the products are shown is due to a paid campaign.

The rights of consumers who use “free” digital services have also been extended, such as those contracts for which the payment of a cash consideration is not required but which allow merchants to use the personal data of consumers. The latter may cancel contracts based on the use of personal data using the same right as those who sign an online contract for digital pay services, that is, to withdraw from the contract within 14 days of subscription. This right would apply, for example, to online storage services, so-called cloud, to social media and email. 

In case of disruption or damage suffered by a group of consumers by the same trader, in all Member States, it will be possible to be represented by a non-profit organisation (different from country to country) that will act to protect the consumer group and will require indemnity. It will also be possible to create cross-border action if you decide to organise a single representation on behalf of consumers in the various European countries. In addition, the right to request monetary compensation or terminate a contract in case of unfair commercial practices will be unified and made equal throughout the EU and, unlike today, will no longer vary from country to country. 

The update should give the national consumer authorities the power to impose in a coordinated way the effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions. 

Another advantage that European consumers can draw from the updating of the rules is the contrast to the double standard of quality of the products (same brand and packaging, but a significantly different composition of the products, the differences of which the consumer is not informed about). Industry research has shown examples of these practices in the food industry. In doing so, the consumer is deceived by making him believe that what he is buying is the same product, although in truth it is not. According to the guidelines of the Commission in September 2017, the “New Consumer Course” will update the “Unfair Commercial Practices Directive”.