EU firms could trade more easily in other member states and cross-border shoppers would be better informed of their rights under the proposed Common European Sales Law backed by the Legal Affairs Committee on Tuesday. The new law would lay down optional EU-wide rules for purchases from other member states.

“Choosing the right body of law in the internal market is often like participating in a lottery. With CESL we will be able to enhance legal certainty in cross-border online contracts,” said the joint rapporteurs Klaus-Heiner Lehne (EPP, DE) and Luigi Berlinguer (S&D, IT). “Consumers and traders will finally be able to benefit to the full from the potential the internal market offers,” they added.

The Common European Sales Law (CESL) introduces a uniform set of EU-wide rules for cross-border sales, to be applied on a voluntary basis. The aim is to boost business in the internal market by overcoming trade barriers resulting from differences in national contract law.

The committee voted to restrict the new law's scope to distance selling, emphasizing the benefits it would bring to internet shopping in particular.

“At the same time consumers will enjoy a very high level of consumer protection, which will be a good incentive for consumers to choose CESL. And only if consumers say yes to CESL will online traders be able to sell on the basis of one genuine European set of rules throughout the internal market,” said the rapporteurs.

Better range of products for consumers

The new sales law aims to help businesses enter new markets without having to pay the extra costs incurred by having to adapt to different rules in different member states. It would enable firms to offer products in a number of member states under the same contract rules.

For consumers this could mean a wider range of products available at lower prices. The proposal also builds consumers' confidence in online shopping by clarifying their rights when purchasing products from other EU countries. For example, if a customer orders a product online from a different country under the CESL and it proves to be faulty a range of remedies would be available, such as termination of the contract, replacement or repair of the product, or a price reduction.

The CESL would only apply if both parties to the contract, the seller and the buyer, voluntarily agreed to it. If they did not opt for it, the existing national rules would apply..

Next Steps

The draft legislative resolution was adopted as amended by the Legal Affairs Committee by 19 votes to 3, with 2 abstentions. The committee negotiators received a mandate to start negotiations with EU ministers.

Committee on Legal Affairs
In the Chair: Klaus-Heiner Lehne (EPP, DE)
Rapporteurs: Klaus-Heiner Lehne (EPP, DE) and Luigi Berlinguer (S&D, IT)
Procedure: Ordinatory Legislative Procedure, first reading