Brussels, 9 September 2009
Consumers: EU crackdown on websites selling consumer electronic goods
EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva today announced the results of an EU-wide investigation - involving 26 Member States and Norway and Iceland - into misleading advertising and unfair practices on websites selling consumer electronic goods. The clampdown covered 369 websites selling six of the most popular electronic goods to consumers in the EU - digital cameras, mobile phones, personal music players, DVD players, computer equipment and game consoles. It covered 200 of the biggest websites selling electronic equipment in the EU as well as more than 100 websites which were targeted on the basis of consumer complaints. The results of the checks carried out in May this year show that 55% of the websites investigated showed irregularities in particular relating to: misleading information about consumer rights; misleading information about the total cost of the product; or incomplete contact details for the trader. The initial checks by national authorities will now be followed by an enforcement phase when companies are contacted by national authorities and required to correct their websites or clarify their position. At this first stage, three countries – Iceland, Latvia and Norway – have published names of the websites covered by the investigation (see ).
EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said: "We targeted websites selling electronic goods because I know from my own mail bag, and we know from the level of complaints coming into European Consumer Centres that these are a real problem area for consumers. We discovered that more than half of the retailers selling on-line electronic goods are letting consumers down. This is a Europe-wide problem which needs a European solution. There is a lot of work to be done in the months ahead to clean up this sector, Europe's consumers deserve better."
The electronics goods market
The value of online retail sales of consumer electronic goods in Europe is ca. € 6.8 billion (2007), and about one in four EU consumers who ever bought anything online bought an electronic product (including cameras). More than a third of complaints regarding online sales handled by the European Consumer Centre Network in 2007, concerned the purchase of electronic equipment.
The sweep investigation
In May 2009, national enforcers (co-ordinated by the European Commission) checked websites selling electronic goods for compliance with three crucial EU consumer laws: the Distance Selling Directive, the e-Commerce Directive, and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (see for more details).
The sweep investigation focused on 3 key areas:
The results of the sweep investigation were as follows:
What happens next?
Traders will be contacted by the national authorities and asked to clarify their position or correct the problems identified. Failure to bring a website in line with the law can result in legal action leading to fines or websites being closed. The EU wide enforcement results will be presented by mid-2010.
Samples of good and bad websites selling electronic goods: