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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 17 September 2013

Optional European Sales Law: Commission proposal backed by European Parliament committee

The proposal for an optional Common European Sales Law for consumers and businesses (IP/11/1175 and MEMO/11/680) was backed today by a large majority (19 votes for, 3 against and 2 abstentions) in the leading European Parliament committee on this proposal, the Committee for Legal Affairs (JURI). An optional EU wide contract law 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.

"Today’s vote by the Legal Affairs Committee is a real breakthrough: it is an important signal from the European Parliament that the optional Common European Sales Law, as proposed by the European Commission in October 2011, is the right tool for cutting costs for SMEs while giving Europe's consumers more opportunities to shop across borders," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. "I thank the Committee, and in particular the rapporteurs Klaus-Heiner Lehne and Luigi Berlinguer for their swift and committed work which safeguards the high level of consumer protection included in the Commission's proposal. I will continue to work closely with the European Parliament and the Member States to deliver this tool which will help us boost the Single Market, Europe's engine for economic growth and digital competitiveness."

The Commission's proposal will give businesses and consumers the choice of using a single European sales law for their cross-border contracts when offering goods across the European Union. With the principle of subsidiarity in mind, the proposal uses an innovative approach to deepen the Single Market, providing a harmonised set of contract law rules which will co-exist with national contract law and not replace it.

The European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee is backing the adoption of an optional instrument limited to distance contracts, notably online contracts. It strikes a balance between allowing SMEs to market the goods on the basis of one single law and one single IT platform in cross-border trade and the need to ensure consumer confidence through the high level of protection standards.

Background

Despite the success of the EU's Single Market, barriers to cross-border trade remain due to differences between contract laws. They make selling abroad complicated and costly. The 28 different sets of national rules can lead to additional transaction costs, a lack of legal certainty for businesses and a lack of consumer confidence. Small and medium-sized enterprises – the backbone of Europe’s economy, representing 99% of all companies in the EU - are particularly affected by higher transaction costs. Currently, businesses wishing to carry out cross-border transactions must adapt to the different national contract laws of the Member States, translate them and hire lawyers, costing an average €10 000 for each additional export markets. The Common European Sales Law will allow them to sell their goods on the basis of one single law and single IT platform, which will allow considerable cost savings.

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 Common European Sales Law will open up a larger product choice at more competitive prices while ensuring a high level of consumer protection to provide consumers with the confidence they need to boost cross-border online shopping.

On 11 October 2011, the European Commission proposed the 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, including strong consumer protection rules in all 27 EU Member States. The idea of an optional sales law already received the support of an overwhelming majority in the European Parliament plenary (521 in favour, 145 against, 8 abstentions) in a vote on an own initiative report from rapporteur Diana Wallis in 2011 (IP/11/683).

The European Law Institute (ELI), an institute founded by academics and legal practitioners in June 2011 (IP/11/666) and following the model of the American Law Institute, has made a detailed analysis of the optional Common European Sales Law and developed several of its provisions further, which has served as a strong inspiration for amendments voted today by the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee.

For more information

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

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


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