Answer given by Mrs Reding on behalf of the Commission
The Commission is well aware of the practices of the business directory company referred to by the Honourable Member.
There is Union legislation which is relevant to the types of practices employed by the European City Guide and similar operators, namely Directive 2006/114/EC concerning misleading and comparative advertising(1). The enforcement of this legislation is the responsibility of the competent national courts and/or public enforcement authorities who should decide on a case-by-case basis whether a commercial communication is misleading and, where appropriate, take enforcement action. The Commission does not have any enforcement powers.
In addition to the protection under the national laws transposing Directive 2006/114/EC, there are other areas of law, such as criminal law, which are not harmonised at Union level and may possibly be relied upon at national level.
The Commission has attempted to increase awareness of the problem by presenting the issue to European business organisations.
The Commission has also written to the competent Ministers in the Member States, including Spain, most affected by this problem. In these letters, the Commission informed about the complaints received so far and asked a number of specific questions with a view to receiving more detailed information on how national authorities are addressing such issues. From the replies received, it is clear that the national authorities are aware of the problem, have legislation in place to take action and where relevant, have already done so. In particular, as stated by the Honourable Member, the European City Guide has been the subject of administrative action and litigation in Spain.
The Commission recommends that companies which have been victims of this scam lodge a complaint to the national authority responsible for the enforcement of Directive 2006/114/EC.
The competent authorities can be found at the following website: http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/empowerment/cons_networks_en.htm.
Directive 2006/114/EC of the Parliament and of the Council concerning misleading and comparative advertising, OJ L 376, 27.12.2006, Directive repealed and replaced as of 12 December 2007 by Council Directive 84/450/EEC concerning misleading and comparative advertising, OJ L 250, 19.9.1984.