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Meglena Kuneva

European Consumer Commissioner

"Contract Rights Directive"

Press conference speaking points
Brussels, 8 October 2008


I am very pleased to be here today to announce good news for Europe's 500 million consumers.

This morning, the European Commission has agreed on proposals to strengthen consumer protection with a single set of consumer rights that will apply to the entire EU.

The proposal is a cornerstone of the New Consumer Strategy 2007-2013 based on the twin engines of maximizing consumer welfare and delivering a very high level of protection.

I am aware of the fact that in an increasingly uncertain world, the new rights are not going to solve either the international financial crisis or tackle all the problems that consumers are facing.

But ordinary life goes on. People have to buy clothes for their children and food for their families.

And stronger consumer rights will give people a greater sense of security and some peace of mind as they spend their hard earned money.

What are we proposing today?

The Commission has adopted proposals for a single set of core EU wide consumer rights. The new rules will significantly strengthen consumer protection across the EU and guarantee equal protection for consumers wherever and however they shop - online or in the high street.

It is the most far reaching overhaul of consumer rights in 30 years.

At the same time, it will significantly reduce the burden on Europe's hard pressed business community.

There are 12 priority areas:

  • 1. First, tough new rules on delivery - the biggest problem for consumers in cross border shopping. Goods must be delivered in 30 days everywhere. There are new rules covering damage in transport. For late delivery, or non delivery – you have a new right to get your money back in 7 days.
  • 2. Second, an end to hidden charges – no display no pay. We have targeted hidden charges – the new plague for consumers – with tough new transparency rules and a right to a refund. This breaks new ground for consumers.
  • 3. Third, a strengthened EU wide 14-day "cooling off" period and right of withdrawal for consumers. Cooling off periods are strengthened to build confidence. The new EU-wide 14 day right is a very big step forwards from the current situation.
  • 4. Fourth, a new ban on default pre-ticked boxes. There is new protection to crack down on default options which are being increasingly used to deny consumers a real choice. All pre-ticked box which apply to payments are banned – for example, for travel insurance, priority boarding and baggage.
  • 5. Fifth, there is a new "see through clause" to tackle the problem of omissions in required information for consumers. Full information for consumers is essential not an add-on luxury. National courts will decide on the sanction depending on the scale of the omission– from refunds, to replacement or declaring a contract void.
  • 6.Next, a major crackdown on pressure selling. We have significantly extended protection against pressure selling to cover all "off premises selling." All direct transactions which are carried out (face to face) away from a business premises will now be covered.
  • 7. And we have closed loopholes for distance selling. New definitions means that ALL distance contracts are fully covered - closing all existing loopholes.
  • 8. Number eight, we have new transparency obligations – you must be informed of any deposits or guarantees which will be taken in advance eg credit card blocking. And you must be told if you are dealing with an intermediary - as your consumer rights will not apply.
  • 9.Number nine, there is new protection for mobile-commerce and tele-commerce. EU Consumer rights are extended for the first time to mobile-commerce and tele-commerce. We are also updating the existing rules, so that modern technology such as Email, and pdf files can be easily used by consumers to notify the trader.
  • 10Ten, there is a new EU Black list and grey list of unfair and abusive contract terms – so that consumers cannot be caught out by hidden clauses in the small print.
  • 11.Eleven, there is new EU-wide protection for online auctions. Now online auctions are covered by the same information provisions as other transactions.
  • 12.And finally, the point of sale itself. There is a specific requirement in the directive for Member States to ensure that consumers are given clear information about their consumer rights at point of sale. Rights are no good unless people know about them.

In conclusion, let me be very clear. My job is to be a Consumer Watchdog and I take it very seriously. I watch the market from a consumer point of view and fight for consumers interests.

I am fully aware that in establishing new EU wide rules there are cases where consumers who gain many new rights will find also changes to their existing rules.

I want to tell you that the issues have been studied in great detail for every individual country. And in each and every case, for every country, overall the consumer very clearly gains.

That is my guarantee.

I will not have it any other way.

Thank you very much for your attention. I will now be happy to take any questions.

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