Yesterday we debated the future of EU consumer law. I had to a vested interest. I love shopping. I shop at home. I shop abroad. I shop on the net.
Now if you are a megashopper (like me), or an ordinary consumer, you know that shopping does not always go right. The suit you bring home doesn’t look good. The stuff you bought on the net does not arrive on time. The sofa gets damaged during delivery.
You send an e-mail to the supplier, but you don’t receive a response. You call, but you get the answering machine. You go back to the shop and tell them that your new gadget does not work. The salesperson looks at you as if you were some idiot who loves to shove his fingers into the electric socket.
One of the key principles of the EU is that all goods should move freely between the 27 member states. Unfortunately all 27 member states have different rules and regulations for consumers. This means that consumers and companies are often confused about which rules actually apply.
The EU has tried to do something about it. There are a whole bunch of consumer directives which try to level out the playing field. As a matter of fact the EU is the consumer’s best friend.
The directive on the ”sale on consumer goods and guarantees” tells you that you can get your money back or receive a reduction if the purchase does not conform to the agreement that you have made with the seller. All this within two years of the purchase date!
The distance selling directive is useful for the long-distance shopper. If you do not like what you bought on the net, you are allowed to return the purchase within seven days without giving a reason for the return. There are many more examples around.
Commissioner Kuneva is in charge of consumer policy in the Commission. She is doing a great job and has put new wind into the sales of European consumer law. She will come out with a megaproposal which will update at least eight old consumer directives.
The biggest problem is that all the member states think that their consumer laws are the best in the world. They are thus very reluctant to change.
It will be a long haul to try to get all EU countries to have the same or at least similar consumer laws. Nevertheless, it is a challenge well worth taking. If my habits are anything to go by I predict that internet shopping is on the rise. I want to be confident enough to by stuff from all around Europe. Don’t you?