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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 20 February 2013

Commission welcomes European Parliament Committee support for an optional Common European Sales Law

The European Commission welcomes the draft report from the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) backing optional EU-wide rules for businesses and consumers who are concluding contracts in the Single Market. In their draft report, the co-rapporteurs of the European Parliament Legal Affairs Committee, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Klaus-Heiner Lehne and MEP Luigi Berlinguer, backed the Commission’s proposal for a Common European Sales Law (IP/11/1175 and MEMO/11/680). An optional EU-wide contract law would promote growth by making it cheaper for businesses to access new markets and offering consumers a greater choice of products at more competitive prices. It would promote the Digital Single Market by providing a coherent set of rules for the marketing of digital products and related services which may also apply when some of these products are provided using the Cloud. The JURI Committee is due to vote on the report in the coming months.

"I welcome Mr Lehne's and Mr Berlinguer's support for an optional Common European Sales Law. It would cut transaction costs for SMEs while giving Europe's 500 million consumers more opportunities to shop across borders", said Vice President Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "The co-rapporteurs’ approach is very constructive and an important step towards the adoption of an optional Common European Sales Law. I will continue to work closely with the European Parliament and all Member States to make sure that the optional European sales law is adopted swiftly so we can help kick-start the Single Market, Europe's engine for economic growth."

Instead of setting aside national laws, the European Commission proposal takes an innovative approach based on free choice, subsidiarity and competition. Today's report builds on previous European Parliament reports such as its report supporting the approach of an optional instrument (IP/11/683).

The European Parliament Legal Affairs Committee co-rapporteurs suggest in their report to limit the scope of the Common European Sales Law to distance contracts, notably online contracts. Given the need to complete the Digital Single Market this restriction of scope in the JURI rapporteurs' opinion suggests that the core added value of this optional instrument lies in the field of online business.

Background

Contracts are an essential tool for running businesses. 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 different sets of national rules can lead to additional transaction costs, increased legal uncertainty for businesses and lack of consumer confidence. Small and medium-sized companies are particularly affected by higher transaction costs. Currently, businesses wishing to carry out cross-border transactions must adapt to up to 26 different national contract laws, translate them and hire lawyers, costing an average €10,000 for each additional export market.

Consumers in turn often lack the confidence to take advantage of the full potential of Europe's Digital Single Market or are not given the opportunity to do so: the interest is reflected for example in the fact that 27% of cross-border online shoppers target Germany as the market for their purchases, 24% target the UK and 14% France (see Annex). The availability of this optional instrument for consumers can boost cross-border online shopping.

On 11 October 2011, the European Commission proposed an optional Common European Sales Law (see IP/11/1175 and MEMO/11/680) to facilitate cross-border trade by offering a single set of rules for cross-border contracts in all 27 EU Member States. The Common European Sales Law provides strong consumer protection which goes further than many national laws.

For more information

JURI co-rapporteurs' Draft Report on the Common European Sales Law:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/organes/juri/juri_20130220_0900.htm

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

European Commission – Common European Sales Law:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/contract/index_en.htm

Justice Directorate General Newsroom:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/newsroom/index_en.htm

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter:

@VivianeRedingEU

ANNEX

Consumer survey – Cross-border online shopping: target countries

Source: Executive Agency for Health and Consumers Study: 'Consumer market study on the functioning of e-commerce and Internet marketing and selling techniques in the retail of goods',

http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/consumer_research/market_studies/docs/study_ecommerce_goods_en.pdf


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