Malta Independent

European Parliament strengthen­s EU consumer protection rules


• New transparen­cy rules for online rankings and reviews

• Law clarifies how to deal with dual quality of products

• Fines can amount to 4% of the trader’s annual turnover Updates to EU consumer protection rules to improve ranking transparen­cy in online marketplac­es and to tackle dual quality of products were approved by MEPs on Wednesday.

The new law, already agreed with EU ministers, updates consumer rights for the internet age, ensuring consumers will have more informatio­n about how online rankings work and when they derive from paid placements. The revamped rules also aim to make the use of online reviews and personalis­ed pricing more transparen­t for consumers.

Online marketplac­es and comparison services (e.g. Amazon, eBay, AirBnb, Skyscanner) will have to disclose the main parameters determinin­g how offers resulting from a search query are ranked. Consumers must also be informed from whom they are buying goods or services (a trader, the online marketplac­e itself or a private person) and whether personalis­ed pricing was used.

Dual quality of products

This directive also deals with the so-called “dual quality of products” issue, i.e. when products which are marketed under the same brand in different EU countries differ in compositio­n or characteri­stics. It clarifies how misleading marketing should be dealt with by national authoritie­s. If certain conditions are met (e.g. marketing in different member states of products as being identical, significan­tly unjustifie­d different compositio­n or characteri­stics), the practice could be qualified as a misleading practice and prohibited.

The text also includes a review clause requiring the Commission to assess the situation within two years to see whether dual quality of products needs to be added to the blacklist of unfair commercial practices.

Penalties for infringeme­nts

For widespread infringeme­nts (i.e. those harming consumers in several EU countries), the available maximum fine in member states must amount to at least 4 % of the trader’s annual turnover in the previous financial year or a lump sum of two million euros in cases where informatio­n on turnover is not available.

Daniel Dalton (ECR, UK), Parliament’s lead negotiator, said: “This package reboots consumer rights for the internet age, bringing new protection­s and empowering consumers with informatio­n whenever they buy. Consumers can no longer be misled by products made to different standards, but marketed as the same in different member states. With the agreement we have found, there is a beginning. Dual quality products now, for the first time, are addressed and in the coming years the Commission will have to review progress seriously. Those are concrete steps”.

Next steps

The directive, approved by the House with 474 votes to 163, and 14 abstention­s, will now be submitted for approval to the EU Council of Ministers. Member states will then have 24 months from the date of entry into force of the directive to transpose it into national law.

This legislatio­n amends four existing consumer protection directives: on Unfair Commercial Practices, on Consumer Rights, on Unfair Contract Terms and on Price Indication. It is part of the “New Deal for Consumers” package.

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