Which? is calling on the UK government to scrap the European Commission’s proposal for a Common Sales Law, and is calling for an EU-wide alternative dispute resolution service.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, says the Common Sales Law is being presented as ‘a positive step for consumers, but it’s not.’ He warned ‘it could even lead to people having less protection.’
The Commission is proposing a Common Sales Law in a bid to boost cross-border trade. However, Richard Lloyd, has said the Commission has provided ‘no convincing evidence to support its position.’
Consumer protection rules
Businesses in member states of the European Commission typically set the applicable sales law to be the contract law of their own country. In business to consumer transactions, they also have to comply with the mandatory consumer protection rules of the consumer’s home country.
If the Common Sales Law is adopted, any business in a member state would be able to – but wouldn’t have to – use it as an alternative. The business could ignore the mandatory rules of the consumer’s home country.
Alternative dispute resolution service
Which? wants the Commission to focus on tackling the bigger issues that put people off cross-border shopping. Richard Lloyd said: ‘By far the biggest barrier is the fear that there’s nowhere to turn if something goes wrong.’
Introducing an EU-wide alternative dispute resolution service would address those concerns and would be far more likely to increase cross-border sales than tinkering with contract law.
International online shopping
UK consumers enjoy the same key rights when buying from websites based in other EU countries as they do from UK sites.
There is a high level of consumer protection in the proposal, but it could easily be eroded by the time it passes through Council and the European Parliament, to leave consumers with less protection than they have now when shopping cross-border. And if businesses start using it for domestic transactions as well, it could leave consumers worse off when shopping in their own country too.
Optional law oxymoron
The proposal includes the concept that the new law be ‘optional’, allowing people to choose to apply either the EU law or their national law.
This means that the businesses who get to make that choice, will be likely choose the option that is benefits them rather than the consumer. The only choice for consumers will be whether or not to buy from that trader.