Following Parliament’s approval, MEPs will now enter into negotiations with EU governments in the Council on new rules to improve the rights of shoppers across the Union.
Currently there are different rules on redress for faulty goods depending on the EU country you are in and whether you shopped online or offline. There can be differences also in whether you are entitled to repairs, replacements and for how long your rights apply.
The new rules, being negotiated by Parliament and the Council, will be uniform right across the EU and will cover both online and offline purchases. They will strengthen the rights of the consumer by:
- giving free choice of redress: repairs or replacement, and where repairs prove unsatisfactory, price reduction or reimbursement;
- and freeing the consumer from the need to prove that the goods were faulty at the time of delivery or purchase for a period of one year after the delivery or purchase.
To take the example of a consumer buying a fridge in a local appliance store, according to the new rules, the customer would have one year (compared to six months currently) to seek repairs or replacement free of charge; and they would not need to demonstrate that the defect was present at the time of purchase. The same rules would apply should the fridge be purchased online.
Under EU rules, the trader remains liable if a defect appears within two years. In the second year, however, the consumer may be required to demonstrate that the defect is not their responsibility. Author of the proposal on returning faulty goods, Pascal Arimont (EPP, Belgium) explains how the new rules work:
The new uniform rules ensure legal certainty for all sellers, big and small, online and offline. Arimont adds: “They ensure a level-playing field for businesses, by giving them more legal certainty and confidence to engage in cross-border sales. By tearing down legal barriers, we support our very small companies in particular, allowing them to get their fair share of e-commerce next to giants such as Amazon.”
The rules apply to tangible goods. For digital goods, the new EU-wide rules, green-lighted by the Parliament in November 2017, are already at the negotiation stage between Parliament, Council and the Commission. Under these rules, online shoppers will be entitled to repairs or refunds in cases where games, apps and songs bought online in the EU are defective.
The new rules on shopping follow the end of geo-blocking for online purchases. The restrictions imposed by online stores based on nationality, place of residence or place of connection will disappear by the end of this year.