EU sweep cleans up dodgy electronics sites

An initiative by the European Commission has achieved some success in forcing electronics websites to remove unfair pricing and inaccurate information
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

A Europe-wide crackdown on electronics retail websites has led to a steep drop in misleading advertising and unfair practices on those outlets, according to the European Commission.

A recent survey of 369 sites selling mobile phones and other electronic goods found that around 16 percent of those sites did not keep to EU consumer sales rules, the Commission said in a statement on Thursday. That is an improvement on figures from early 2009, when 56 percent of those retailers were found to be in breach.

The findings are the outcome of a Commission investigation launched in May 2009. The investigation, or 'sweep', aimed to identify electronics sites that displayed misleading information on consumer rights, incorrect prices and missing trader contact details. The sweep involved national consumer protection authorities from 26 of the 27 EU member states, including the UK's Office of Fair Trading.

"The sweeps are all about making sure that EU laws benefiting consumers are enforced with vigour, to deliver transparent pricing and truthful information. Today's results show that the sweeps are working," said EU health and consumer commissioner John Dalli in the statement.

Of the 369 websites checked at the start of the sweep, 310 sites are now in compliance — compared with only 163 sites initially. The Commission imposed sanctions, such as fines and the closure of websites, for those businesses with confirmed breaches.

Commission consumer policy spokesman Frédéric Vincent was unable to tell ZDNet UK which particular problems were preventing the outstanding 16 percent in the survey from complying with EU laws.

"It could be that the sites are fraudulent, that they are just trying to get money and run away," said Vincent. "Or they are presenting the wrong information, or incorrect information, to consumers."

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