BEUC

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The European Consumer Organisation (the “BEUC,” from the French name Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateurs) has published its recommendations on certain aspects of the Digital Single Market Strategy in the European Union following the European Commission’s communication in February on shaping the digital future.

Given that the still nascent Digital Services Act and its legislative package will be coupled with a revision of Directive 200/31/EC, of June 8, 2000, on certain legal aspects of information society services (the “e-Commerce Directive”), the BEUC has identified a series of important aspects or problems that the revision should address, and possible solutions for each of them. Specifically:

  • Dissemination of illegal activities online (including products)

The BEUC stresses the importance of these points: (i) that along with market objectives, the revision of the e-Commerce Directive guarantees consumer protection, their rights, and safety in the online environment; (ii) the improvement of the complementary nature of the provisions applicable to consumers (e.g., product safety and geoblocking); (iii) the review of the online supplier obligations system (e.g., in relation to removing content); and (iv) the implementation of appropriate measures for each situation that can arise online (such as surreptitious advertising by influencers, aggressive advertising and online scams).

  • The e-Commerce Directive does not apply to services supplied by providers established in a third country

The BEUC highlights that the spatial scope should cover all entities that provide and supply services, products, or content online to European Union consumers, whether they are established in the EU or not.

  • Actions and the applicable liability regime

The BEUC upholds the need to: (i) define when there is effective knowledge of the unlawfulness of online activities; (ii) give greater rigor to concluding distance contracts; (iii) harmonize the applicable procedural aspects (e.g., principles of action, notice formats, notice validity and safeguards) as only 10 Member States have approved regulations in this area; (iv) tighten user authentication and the verification process of the products, services, and content offered; and (v) increase transparency and information to consumers, particularly regarding advertising and promotional activities.

  • Gaps in the current liability regime

To provide consumers greater guarantees when taking legal action and thus contribute to safeguarding their rights, it considers the revision an opportunity to create a more harmonized (or, at least, detailed) liability regime for providers covering these aspects.

  • The e-Commerce Directive, and its transposition, makes it more difficult for states to create regulatory bodies and adopt consumer-protection policies

The BEUC recommends special precaution when EU legislators draft new texts, in addition to the need for the legislators of each Member State to have some flexibility in regulating these matters, since public interest and needs vary from state to state.

  • Lack of adequate supervisory mechanisms

The BEUC again proposes crossborder cooperation between competent authorities in different areas, such as data protection, consumption and competition.

Aside from these recommendations, as the Digital Single Market Strategy progresses and there is more news on the reform of the e-Commerce Directive, the BEUC is leaving the way open to add new recommendations, as well as state a position on subsequent advances in the strategy.

By: Raúl Pérez Terol

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raul.perez@cuatrecasas.com