The European Commission has pledged to crack down on unfair trade practices by e-commerce sites across the European Union.
The promise comes five years after the European Union's first Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, which had been intended to create a level playing field across the EU for online trading.
It introduced a standardised set of rules, and contained a raft of provisions that were supposed to prevent unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices. That included bans on misleading consumers by making fraudulent claims, and on aggressive marketing practices such as misleading 'free' offers, direct marketing to children and 'bait and switch' advertising in which consumers are enticed with an attractive offer that doesn't exist, and offered a less attractive alternative.
In its five-year review of the Directive, the Commission admitted that both consumers and traders remain uncertain about how the Directive will be applied in their countries, while member states have complained that they lack the resources to police the Directive and that it lacks effective sanctions. The Commission has said that it will co-ordinate enforcement action across the EU and encourage member states to share best practices.
The review has also considered extending the Directive to eBay-type trading between consumers, but (fortunately) rejected:
"The fast development of internet platforms has raised the issue of whether protection should be strengthened in relation to C2C [consumer to consumer] transactions. Enforcement experience shows that the main problem is, in reality, caused by traders disguised as consumers and hiding their real qualification/commercial intent. Such practices are already forbidden by the Directive..."
The review concluded that, although there are many shortcomings, especially in terms of enforcement, there is no appetite among member states to extend the Directive.
"I want to see zero tolerance for rogue traders so consumers know exactly what they are buying and are not getting ripped off. That also means a coherent approach to enforcing the same set of rules," said EU Justice Commissioner Vivienne Reding.
However, Clare Francis, a senior associate at law firm Pinsent Masons, said that although the rules had been in force for a number of years, the increasing use of the internet for sales and marketing platform had led to some of the practices banned by the Directive actually becoming more common, because the competitiveness of the internet had increased the pressure on companies to attract new customers.
Does Google know too much about you?
Are you ready for BYOD? Here are seven questions you should answer as you roll out new mobile capabilities
Uncertainty about return on investment and skills shortages needs to be overcome if the promise of big data technologies is to be fulfilled
Date: 25 Jun 2013
The IT Leaders Forum brings together the senior IT professionals who drive technology decisions within major UK enterprises. The forum provides delegates...
Date: 17 Sep 2013
Security is a top priority for IT professionals, and one of their biggest challenges is remaining up to date with new threats posed by cyber criminals....