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IP/11/98

Brussels, 27 January 2011

Distance marketing of financial services: the Commission takes Sweden to the Court of Justice

Today the European Commission decided to refer Sweden to the Court of Justice of the European Union for inadequate transposition of Directive 2002/65/EC concerning the distance marketing of consumer financial services into their national law. The Commission considers that Sweden has failed to sufficiently protect consumers' rights in transposing the Directive.

The issue

Sweden has not communicated concrete draft amendments to its national laws (and a timeline for adopting them) implementing the Directive 2002/65/EC on distance marketing of consumer financial services.

The Directive grants consumers, amongst other rights, the right to withdraw from a contract with a service provider within 14 calendar days of its conclusion.

It would appear that consumers exercising their right of withdrawal from a service contract concluded under Swedish law may be required to pay the service supplier compensation for costs associated with, for example, screening before granting a loan. This is contrary to the Directive, which accepts that consumers may be required to compensate a provider only for a service provided to them directly.

The Commission launched an infringement procedure against Sweden on the issue of compensation on 8 October 2009 (IP/09/1450). In reply, Sweden argued that the extra costs which may be imposed on consumers are an inseparable part of the service provided to them. The Commission sent a Reasoned Opinion on 4 June 2009 confirming its opinion that Sweden is infringing the directive (IP/10/688) In reply, Sweden has informed of its intentions to amend national legislation to comply with the Directive.

Sweden has, however, failed to present any draft amendments and a reasonable time-frame for their adoption.

As a result, the Commission has decided today to refer Sweden to the Court of Justice to ensure proper implementation of EU law

Background

Unlike goods, when financial services are bought and sold over the internet or by telephone/fax, the 'financial service' as such is a contract between a consumer and a bank, a credit card company, an investment fund, an insurance company, or another financial institution.

To boost consumer confidence in these distance marketing techniques - and in particular in internet transactions across borders - the EU adopted in 2002 a Directive laying down fundamental rights for consumers:

  • An obligation to provide consumers with comprehensive information before a contract is concluded.

  • A consumer right to withdraw from the contract during a "cooling-off" period.

  • A ban on abusive marketing practices seeking to oblige consumers to buy a service they have not solicited ("inertia selling")

  • Rules to restrict other practices such as unsolicited phone calls and e-mails ("cold calling" and "spamming").

More information on the infringement procedure: MEMO/11/45

More information on consumer financial services:

http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/rights/fin_serv_en.htm#dist


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