Brussels, 10 October 2018
A New Deal for Consumers:
Operators of online platforms should also be liable
The rapporteur, Samuel Azzopardi, believes that the EC’s proposal is a move in the right direction, but regrets that rules on the liability of online marketplaces are missing
With an opinion drawn up by Samuel Azzopardi (MT/EPP), councillor, Rabat Citta Victoria, Local Council, Gozo, the European Committee of the Regions welcomes the publication of the EC’s proposal to lay down a minimum EU-wide framework for collective redress scheme mechanisms across the Member States, which could bring a real opportunity for consumers to obtain redress in cases of mass damage. The revision and update of existing consumer rules in response to current challenges ensures that such rules remain relevant and fit for purpose. This should, however, only be considered as a first step in the right direction.
The opinion, adopted at the plenary session on 10 October, reflects on the EC’s proposal to lay down a minimum EU-wide framework for collective redress scheme mechanisms, bringing an opportunity for consumers to obtain redress in the event of mass damage and thus plugging the current gap in the enforcement of EU consumer rights. It also seeks to modernise consumer rights. The Committee supports the broad scope of the proposal for making a real impact in areas where mass harm occurs and covering other practices that are detrimental to consumers and more largely to the public.
The rapporteur, Samuel Azzopardi, recommends that collective redress mechanisms be extended to other cases of mass harm, including cases of mass environmental damage, harm done to common goods, and in respect of health and safety regulations or violations of employment rights, in order to bring about easier access to justice for all Europeans. He also draws attention to the fact that consumer organisations which can be designated as qualified entities may have limited financial capacities. Consumer organisations in smaller Member States are concerned in particular. Lack of financial capacity should not hinder organisations from being designated as qualified entities.
“European consumers and citizens need stronger protection and legal security”, said rapporteur Azzopardi. “I believe that the right of withdrawal is an important consumer right that should not be weakened in the absence of any conclusive evidence of misuse”. In this respect, the report points out that the minimum fine for widespread infringements, amounting to 4% of a trader’s annual turnover, is not adequately dissuasive.
Finally, the report regrets that rules on the liability of online marketplaces are missing in the EC’s proposal. “Operators of online platforms should be liable in cases where they fail to inform consumers that a third party is the actual supplier of goods or services or where they fail to remove misleading information disseminated by the supplier, which has been reported to the operator”, said Mr Azzopardi.
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