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IP/10/1234

Brussels, 30 September 2010

Consumer rights: European Commission closes infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic and Luxembourg

EU action to give consumers more rights when buying goods and services is paying off. The European Commission today closed infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic and Luxembourg after both countries made changes to their laws and clarified certain consumer rights. A Czech law had allowed unfair terms in traders' contracts to stand if consumers did not contest them. This rule has now been abolished following Commission action. Luxembourg modified its law putting in place the EU Directive on the sale of consumer goods to give clearer rights for returning faulty goods.

Czech Republic: Unfair terms in consumer contracts

Following the Commission’s reasoned opinion in October 2009 (see IP/09/1451), a change in Czech law (Section 56 (2) of the Civil Code) means that Czech consumers will no longer be bound by unfair contract terms that they fail to spot and complain about.

EU Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts protects consumers from pre-formulated terms in sales or service contracts that harm their rights or contain unfair conditions.

This is the last of nine cases opened against Member States that joined the EU in 2004 by the Commission for inadequate transposition of the Directive. All of these cases have now been resolved by legislative changes in the Member States.

Luxembourg: Sale of consumer goods

Following the Commission's reasoned opinion on 22 March, Luxembourg amended its national law on 21 July. This law put in place EU Directive 99/44/EC on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees.

This Directive protects European consumers by, among other things, laying down minimum consumer rights when they purchase faulty goods. Under EU rules, consumers have, at the first stage, the choice of replacement or repair. Where this is impossible or the seller refuses to comply, the consumer is entitled to a refund or an appropriate price reduction.

Until now, Luxembourg's rules did not adequately lay down the conditions under which a seller can insist on repairing rather than replacing the good or vice versa.

Under EU rules he/she may do so only if the solution requested by the consumer implies unreasonable costs for the seller, taking into account the value of the goods, the significance of the defect and the inconvenience caused to the consumer.

Luxembourg's new rules strengthen consumer rights in accordance with the Directive by allowing sellers to point out that the consumer should have known of the defect only if such knowledge existed already at the time of the purchase and not at a later stage.

In 2009, having established that there were different deficiencies in the transposition in a number of Member States, the Commission opened nine infringement cases for inadequate transposition of Directive 99/44/EC. Four of these proceedings, including the case against Luxembourg, have in the meantime been closed, mostly following legislative changes in the Member States concerned. Five cases, concerning the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Poland and Slovenia, are still open.

Next steps

For more information about the infringement process, see MEM0/10/457.

Background

For current statistics on infringements in general, see:

http://ec.europa.eu/community_law/infringements/infringements_en.htm

Justice Directorate-General Newsroom:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/news/intro/news_intro_en.htm

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/reding/index_en.htm


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