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New Deal for consumers - A step backwards on full harmonisation of consumer law
The American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union (AmCham EU) is concerned about the Council text adopted on 1 March 2019 on the proposed 'New Deal for Consumers Omnibus Directive' that introduces exemptions from the full harmonisation principle of the Unfair Commerical Practices Directive.
AmCham EU supports the Commission's efforts to guarantee a high level of consumer protection, and where individuals have been harmed by illegal practices, provide redress.
However, we are disappointed that the Council text allows for regulation of the entire direct selling sector and not merely unsolicited visits and excursion sales. The text also applies to forms of direct selling where the consumer has asked a seller to come to their home (social selling) or promotional booths in a pedestrian zone or a shopping mall. AmCham EU notes that no Member State has reported any kind of problems in this field to the Commission. Hence, we question the need to legislate against a widely accepted offline selling method, offering a competitive advantage to other channels and threatening jobs. Only persistent and unwanted solicitations to the consumer's home without the consumer's prior agreement or during commercial excursions should be targeted by the final compromise text.
With regards to the proposed steps to modernise consumer protection, we understand the need to address the issue of dual-quality products in certain Member States. However, the Council text does not provide an adequate degree of flexibility with regards to consumer preferences that should be taken into consideration in the final compromise text.
While sharing the Commission's concerns about the insufficient and uneven enforcement of consumer protection rules in the EU, the introduction of harmonised maximum penalties is unlikely to completely remedy the issue. Instead, insufficient compliance and enforcement would be more effectively tackled by addressing the lack of awareness of consumer rights and encouraging more coordination between Member States.
For more information on AmCham EU's position on better enforcement and modernisation of consumer rights in the EU, please see our position paper here.