Members of the European Parliament voted on April 17 to approve a move against double standards when products which are marketed under the same brand in different EU countries differ in composition or characteristics.
The law clarifies how misleading marketing should be dealt with by national authorities. If certain conditions are met, such as marketing in different member states of products as being identical, significantly unjustified different composition or characteristics, the practice could be qualified as a misleading practice and prohibited.
The text also includes a review clause requiring the European Commission to assess the situation within two years to see whether dual quality of products needs to be added to the blacklist of unfair commercial practices.
For widespread infringements (that is, those harming consumers in several EU countries), the available maximum fine in member states must amount to at least four per cent of the trader’s annual turnover in the previous financial year or a lump sum of two million euro in cases where information on turnover is not available.
The directive also “updates consumer rights for the internet age”, ensuring consumers will have more information about how online rankings work and when they derive from paid placements. The revamped rules also aim to make the use of online reviews and personalised pricing more transparent for consumers, the European Parliament said.
Online marketplaces and comparison services (e.g. Amazon, eBay, AirBnb, Skyscanner) will have to disclose the main parameters determining how offers resulting from a search query are ranked. Consumers must also be informed from whom they are buying goods or services (a trader, the online marketplace itself or a private person) and whether personalised pricing was used.
The directive, approved by the European Parliament with 474 votes to 163, and 14 abstentions, will now be submitted for approval to the EU Council of Ministers. Member states will then have 24 months from the date of entry into force of the directive to transpose it into national law.
This legislation amends four existing consumer protection directives: on Unfair Commercial Practices, on Consumer Rights, on Unfair Contract Terms and on Price Indication. It is part of the “New Deal for Consumers” package.
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