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The European Commission (EC) has opened an online public consultation on the targeted revision of EU consumer law (the Consultation). The Consultation follows the EC’s publication of the results of its Fitness Check on consumer and marketing law and of the evaluation of the Consumer Rights Directive (Directive 2011/83/EU) (the CRD).

Background

Both the Consultation and the Fitness Check form part of the EC’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) programme, which aims to make EU law simpler, less costly and identify any inconsistencies and/or obsolete measures which may have appeared over time.

The Fitness Check carried out a comprehensive evaluation of six directives:

– the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive 2005/29/EC;

– the Unfair Contract Terms Directive 93/13/EEC;

– the Price Indication Directive 98/6/EC;

– the Consumer Sales and Guarantees Directive 1999/44/EC;

– the Injunctions Directive 2009/22/EC; and

– the Misleading and Comparative Advertising Directive 2006/114/EC.

In late May, the EC published its findings of its analysis of these six directives and its separate parallel review of the CRD. In brief, the EC found that “[t]he evaluations confirm that in general consumer law remains fit for purpose.” It did identify, however, the need to improve awareness, enforcement of the rules and redress opportunities to make the best of the existing legislation. It also stated that targeted legislative changes to address certain identified shortcomings of the directives could be beneficial.

Free Online/Digital Services

One of the shortcomings that the EC identified is that the CRD does not currently apply to the provision of ‘free’ online/digital services. ‘Free’ in this context means that the consumer does not pay with money for the service but instead provides data. Examples of this are cloud storage, social media or webmail, where the main contractual obligation of the trader is not to provide digital content but rather a service allowing the creation, processing, storing or sharing of data that is produced by the consumer.

The EC has stated that it will examine extending the scope of the CRD to include such contracts for ‘free’ digital services. This would extend traders’ pre-contractual information requirements and consumers’ 14 days right of withdrawal to any digital services. This singling out of the providers of ‘free’ digital services, demonstrates the EC’s continued focus on the digital economy and protecting consumers rights online.

The Consultation offers all citizens and organisations the opportunity to have their say on this matter along with other consumer law matters such as banning doorstop selling and better individual remedies for consumers harmed by unfair commercial practices including misleading “green” claims.

Timing

The Consultation will run for 14 weeks (June – October 2017). Click here for more details.

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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or Drones, as they are more commonly known, have traditionally been regarded as a military tool, frequently featuring in media reports on US military action as well as TV dramas such as ‘Homeland’ and ‘House of Cards’. They are however, being increasingly put to a much broader spectrum of uses.

Drones have been used by humanitarian organisations to deliver food and medical supplies to crisis-stricken areas. Following typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, drones were used by international relief agency Medair to map terrain and create a detailed system of 3D aerial images of the region to make relief efforts more efficient. Amazon’s Prime Air development project has also garnered a lot of attention for its goal to use drones to deliver goods to customers in 30 minutes or less. Drones are also now available to buy in electronics stores and are used to capture videos and photographs by amateur and professional photographers.

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