17 October, 2013
In 2012, the European Commission joined forces with national enforcement authorities to examine if websites selling digital goods are compliant with EU consumer legislation. Consequently it was determined that over 50% of the websites were non-compliant.
As a result of subsequent actions from national enforcement authorities and changes made by the websites concerned, 274 websites are now in line with EU consumer legislation, bringing the percentage of non-compliant websites down to 20%.
The compliance checks looked into websites’ clarity and accessibility of the information provided, availability of contact information and whether the website’s terms and conditions were fair. The most common irregularities found were:
- Unfair contract terms excluding the consumers’ right to take legal action or denying consumers a right to compensation in cases where the products failed to work;
- Unclear information with regard to the right of withdrawal: due to the nature of digital downloads, traders are required to inform consumers prior to the purchase that they will not be able to cancel a download once this has started – this was however not the case for 42% of websites checked.
- A lack of mandatory information on the trader’s identity, in particular their email address, depriving consumers from an effective contact channel.
Enforcement of consumer rights is a priority for Mr Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for Consumer Policy. European consumers increasingly buy digital goods such as online games, books, videos and music, but are often faced with one or more problems, according to a study commissioned by the European Commission in 2011. Nevertheless, the number of users of digital products is expected to grow in the future. Over the last twelve months, 79% of European consumers have used online music services, and 60% have used online games. Digital content is thus already an important economic market for the European Union. It is therefore extremely important that consumers can trust the websites they buy their digital products from. Clear information, terms and conditions and easy ways to contact the seller are prime requirements for this trust. I am pleased with the efforts of the European Commission and the Member States in this respect, and I hope they will continue these efforts in the future.
Senior Legal Consultant