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European Commission - Press release
European Commission proposes an optional Common European Sales Law to boost trade and expand consumer choice
Brussels, 11 October 2011 – Despite the success of the EU's Single Market, barriers to cross-border trade remain. Many of these result from divergent sales laws between the 27 Member States. They make selling abroad complicated and costly, especially for small firms. Traders who are dissuaded from cross-border transactions due to contract law obstacles forgo at least €26 billion in intra-EU trade every year. Meanwhile, 500 million consumers in Europe lose out on greater choice and lower prices because fewer firms make cross-border offers, particularly in smaller national markets.
Today, the European Commission proposed an optional Common European Sales Law to help break down these barriers and give consumers more choice and a high level of protection. It will facilitate trade by offering a single set of rules for cross-border contracts in all 27 EU countries. If traders offer their products on the basis of the Common European Sales law, consumers would have the option of choosing a user-friendly European contract with a high level of protection with just one click of a mouse. The Commission's proposal now needs approval from EU Member States and the European Parliament, which already signalled its overwhelming support in a vote earlier this year (IP/11/683).
"The optional Common European Sales Law will help kick-start the Single Market, Europe's engine for economic growth. It will provide firms with an easy and cheap way to expand their business to new markets in Europe while giving consumers better deals and a high level of protection," said Vice-President Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "Instead of setting aside national laws, today the European Commission is taking an innovative approach based on free choice, subsidiarity and competition."
The Common European Sales Law breaks down barriers and maximises benefits for consumers and businesses.
1. Advantages for Companies:
2. Advantages for Consumers:
The Common European Sales Law will be applicable:
Contracts are essential for running businesses and making sales to consumers. They formalise an agreement between parties and can cover a broad range of matters, including the sale of goods and associated services such as repairs and maintenance.
Companies use a wide variety of contracts that are governed by different national contract laws when operating in Europe’s Single Market. The 27 different sets of national rules can lead to additional transaction costs, a lack of legal certainty for businesses and a lack of consumer confidence. These can act as a deterrent for both consumers and businesses to shopping and trading across EU borders. Small and medium-sized companies are particularly affected by higher transaction costs.
This contrasts with the United States’ internal market, where a trader in Maryland can easily sell his products to a consumer in Alaska.
In July 2010, the Commission put forward several options in a Green Paper for a more coherent approach to contract law. The Commission then held a public consultation that ran until 31 January 2011 and resulted in 320 responses (MEMO/11/55).
On 3 May 2011, an expert group established by the Commission delivered a feasibility study on a future initiative on European contract law (IP/11/523). The Commission consulted stakeholders and citizens during the feasibility study and received 120 responses.
On 8 June 2011, the European Parliament backed an optional European contract law in a plenary vote on an own-initiative report by MEP Diana Wallis (MEMO/11/236).
For more information
European Commission – Common European Sales Law website:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner: