EU lawmakers back rules to help online shoppers

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jun 16, 2011 12:48 PM
EU lawmakers back rules to help online shoppers

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union lawmakers voted strongly in favor of a regulation on Thursday to increase transparency and consumer protection in the EU for online shoppers.

The legislation, set for approval by the full European Parliament later this month, gives consumers a 14-day right to cancel a purchase when buying a product in another EU member state, while deliveries and information provided to them will be more strictly regulated.

The legislation would, for example, forbid websites from automatically ticking boxes for luggage insurance when purchasing plane tickets.

It would also tackle a common problem of consumers downloading content, such as horoscopes, which they believe to be free, only to later find out that they had been charged for accessing it.

A provision obliging sellers to provide contact information and clearly indicate prices and goods ordered before concluding a contract was also included.

The parliamentary committee that approved the legislation on Thursday also agreed that if a seller fails to inform a consumer about the right to cancel a order, the buyer will have up to one year to do so.

Downloaded digital products, such as music, films and software are excluded from the right to cancel a purchase proposed in the legislation, which was hammered out in negotiations between the member states and EU lawmakers.

"This creates higher standards in Europe in a fast growing area," conservative European Member of Parliament Andreas Schwab told Reuters.

Schwab, who led discussions on the legislation, said transparency was crucial to creating consumer confidence in business, which is positive for both parties.

Consumers and firms in EU countries have an unlimited right to buy and sell products in other member states, but in practice cross-border clients often find it difficult to demand the same rights as domestic customers.

Last year about 60 percent of consumers in the EU made an online purchase, according to European Parliament figures.

Once adopted by the European Parliament, the proposal is expected to be approved by EU member states by the end of June.

(Reporting by Christopher Le Coq; Editing by Rex Merrifield and Jan Harvey)