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Brussels, 8 October 2009

Unfair terms in consumer contracts: infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic and Slovakia continue

Today, the European Commission sent reasoned opinions to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, since it considers that their national laws do not comply with the requirements of Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts.

Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts protects consumers from pre-formulated terms in contracts with traders which cause a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations to the detriment of the consumer.

After having examined the national legislation of the ten Member States who joined the EU in 2004 and who, therefore, had to transpose this Directive before 1 May 2004, the Commission launched infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia in 2007, since it had identified transposition problems in these Member States.

Most infringement proceedings have meanwhile been closed, as the Member States concerned changed their legislation.

As regards the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Commission considers that their national provisions do not sufficiently protect consumers' rights. For example, it would appear that, contrary to the Directive, a consumer in the Czech Republic will be bound by an unfair contract term as long as he does not actively invoke its unfairness; or a consumer in Slovakia might be bound by an unfair contract term, as national legislation does not provide for an objective assessment of the unfairness. The Czech Republic and Slovakia have two months to reply to these reasoned opinions, which are the second step in infringement proceedings. If the Commission does not receive a reply, or, if the observations presented by the national authorities are not satisfactory, the Commission may bring the matter before the European Court of Justice.

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