Brussels, 6 January 2003
Commission acts to guarantee EU shoppers' rights: infringement proceedings against 8 Member States
The European Commission has sent 'Reasoned Opinions' to the governments of Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom over their apparent failure to implement the Guarantees Directive (1999/44/EC). This Directive, adopted in May 1999 (see IP/99/332 ), sets out certain minimum legal rights for consumers buying goods in the EU. These include a right to return defective goods, or have them repaired or replaced, up to two years after delivery. Member States were obliged to implement the Directive by 1 January 2002. The eight Member States have yet to notify the Commission of the measures taken under their national law to implement the Directive. The sending of a 'Reason Opinion' is the second step in infringement proceedings under Article 226 of the EU Treaty. If the Member States concerned are not able to assure the Commission that the consumer rights set out in the Directive are in fact implemented under their national law the next step will be for the Commission to lodge cases against them with the European Court of Justice.
"The rights set out in the Guarantees Directive are of fundamental importance to shoppers, and indeed to the EU. If consumers cannot be confident that their rights will be protected they are not going to shop across borders. The Directive was, quite rightly, hailed as a major achievement when the Council and Parliament adopted it in 1999. We are now more than a year past the deadline Member States signed up to for implementation. Eight Member States still have not notified the Commission of how the consumer rights guaranteed in the Directive are protected under their national laws. The Commission has no choice but to proceed with these infringement actions. I am determined to ensure none of the EU's consumers are short-changed." said Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne.
Consumer rights under the Guarantees Directive
The Directive lays down a common set of consumer rights valid no matter where in the European Union the goods are purchased. Central amongst these is that if goods are defective, or do not conform with the contract agreed at the time of purchase, consumers have a right of redress against the seller for two years after taking delivery of the goods. The consumer can request the goods be repaired, delivery of new goods, a price reduction on another purchase or a complete refund of their money. For six months after the delivery the burden of proof is on the seller not the consumer to prove that the goods sold conformed with the contract of sale and were not defective. The final seller who is responsible vis-à-vis the consumer, can under circumstances determined by the Member States hold the producer liable. Member States are allowed to have rules under their national law obliging consumers who wish to use their right of redress to inform the seller of any defect or lack of conformity in the goods within two months of them discovering it.
The directive also requires that commercial guarantees such as manufacturers guarantees or retailers' guarantees must be transparent and clearly drafted. When these guarantees are issued it must be indicated that they go beyond the legal rights of the consumer.
Implementation of the Directive by Member States
The deadline set for transposition of the Directive was 1 January 2002. As of today the Commission has been notified of the following national measures to implement Directive 1999/44/EC:
01. Bundesgesetz, mit dem das Gewährleistungsrecht im Allgemeinen Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch und im Konsumentenschutzgesetz sowie das Versicherungsvertragsgesetz geändert werden (Gewährleistungsrechts--Änderungsgesetz - GewRÄG)
ref : BGBl. Nr. 48/2001 Teil I, 08/05/2001 seite 1019
01. Lov om aendring af lov om markedsforing
ref: Lov Nr. 342 du 02/06/1999, page 1731
02. Lov om aendring af lov omkob
ref: Lov Nr. 213 du 22/04/2002.
01. Gesetz zur Modernisierung des Schuldrechts
ref: Bundesgesetzblatt n° 61, Jahrgang 2001, Teil I, 29/11/2001, Seite 3138
01. Acte législatif n° 3043/2002
ref: FEK n° 192/A du 21/8/2002 page 3745
01. Laki kuluttajansuojalain muuttamiesta
ref: Suomen Säädökokoelma n° 1258/2001 du 19/12/2001, page 3509
01. DECRETO LEGISLATIVO 2 febbraio 2002, n. 24
Attuazione della direttiva 1999/44/CE su taluni aspetti della vendita e delle garanzie di consumo
ref: GURI - serie generale - n. 57 - 8/3/2002
01. Lag (2002 : 587) om ändring i konsumentköplagen (1990 : 932)
02. Lag (2002 : 588) om ändring i konsumenttjänstlagen (1985 : 716)
03. Lag (2002 : 565) om ändring i marknadsföringslagen (1995 : 450)
For further information on Directive 1999/44/EC see: