The EESC urges the Commission to safeguard consumers' rights against any erosion when it comes to digital contracts


The Digital Contract Rights opinion (Rapporteur: Mr Pegado Liz, Various Interests Group) was adopted by the European Economic and Social Committee at its plenary session on 27 April 2016.

The opinion addresses the European Commission legislative proposals on the supply of digital content, and on online sales of goods, both envisaged as a package with common objectives, within the context of the Digital Single Market Strategy.

While the EESC agrees that a number of matters in this area need to be addressed, it feels that the appropriate legal basis for the directives should be Article 169 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (Consumer Policy). It follows from this legal basis that the measures adopted should be based on minimum harmonisation which allows Member States to adopt higher consumer protection standards.  However, in the case of the Proposal for the supply of digital content, for pragmatic reasons, it accepts the Commission's suggestion of targeted full harmonisation, even though it believes that insufficient reasons are given for taking this.

The opinion also highlights the unacceptable difference in the treatment of online and offline sales of goods. Moreover, the rights recognised for face-to-face contracts should be consistent in the laws related to the online environment.

The EESC is concerned that there is a whole set of questions which the directives do not address but which need to be harmonised. Chief among them: the age at which minors can conclude digital contracts and the "pay now" buttons on the pages of certain social networks.   

Regarding the protection of consumers in the online purchasing of intangible goods, in particular data security and privacy protection, the EESC believes that there is an urgent need to establish clear rules. The United Kingdom remains the only member state with regulations of this type.

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