A Year Ago: EC e-commerce proposal slammed

First published: Wed, 18 Nov 1998 17:35:56 GMT

A new e-commerce directive adopted today by the European Commission has been lambasted by the European consumer group BEUC.

The directive is intended to make electronic commerce within the EU easier for traders and consumers, but Brussels-based BEUC (Bureau European des Unions de Consommateurs), has dubbed the legislation "timid and limited" with too little focus on consumers' rights to information, redress, protection of economic interest and personal privacy.

Under the proposal, on-line businesses will be able to offer their services anywhere in the EU provided they comply with the law of the country where they are based. In addition to borderless trade, many of the restrictions -- for example, in Germany you need to apply for a license before certain Web sites can go on-line -- will be done away with.

But BEUC is concerned that the directive will result in the loss of consumer rights. Jim Murray, director of BEUC believes the proposal applies "a simplistic, sledgehammer approach" and argues that home country control should apply firstly to the consumer.

Katrin Schweren, economic adviser at BEUC explained. "If a French consumer is buying goods in England, they might not understand the contractual laws of that country which is not fair to them." Exactly what alternative BEUC proposes is not clear, but the general rule is that the consumer should be protected by the laws of their own country, Schweren said.

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