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European Commission

Viviane Reding

Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Justice Commissioner

Protecting businesses against misleading marketing practices and ensuring effective enforcement

Press Conference / Brussels

27 November 2012

Every day in Europe hundreds of small businesses fall victim to marketing scams. Many shop-owners, doctors and architects – to name a few examples – know exactly what I am talking about. Fraudsters trick them into paying fake invoices, for example, or for announcements in non-existent business directories.

A survey by the European Parliament documented some 13,000 complaints in Europe. In Belgium alone there were 2883 complaints in 2011. And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Only solid Europe-wide rules will allow us to crack down on these scams and make sure the culprits cannot hide behind national borders. Practices like misleading business directories, fake invoices and similar scams must be stopped now. This is why, today, we are presenting a comprehensive plan to revise rules prohibiting these kinds of practices to make them more robust.

I hardly have to remind you of the importance to our economy of the 23 million SMEs in the EU, which represent 99% of businesses. They are key drivers for economic growth and for creating new jobs in the Single Market. And it is small business – the backbone of our economies – who suffer most from misleading marketing practices.

The effects of marketing scams are also felt more widely in the markets. Ultimately, because of marketing scams, European consumers pay more for goods and services.

That’s why I am determined to improve the security of doing business in Europe!

So, what are we concretely planning? Today, we presented a detailed list of actions. The priorities are twofold.

First, we want to make sure that existing rules are effectively enforced and that the culprits can no longer hide behind national borders. Hence, we plan to give Member States' authorities robust powers to stop misleading practices and have them cooperate in a European network. The Commission will ensure that this close cooperation takes place. The tricksters who do not play by the rules must be faced with effective and dissuasive sanctions.

Second, we want to ensure that the rules are crystal-clear and that there are no gaps which fraudsters can exploit. That’s why in 2013 we will bolster existing EU rules on business marketing and ban very harmful practices from the outset. This will add legal certainty and give the affected business the necessary level of EU-wide protection.

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