Euro regulators clash over online protection rules

European ecommerce regulators are set to clash over consumer protection rules after a controversial parliamentary ruling.

European ecommerce regulators are set to clash over consumer protection rules after a controversial parliamentary ruling.

Late Monday, a European parliament committee voted to relax regulations on selling over the internet, which is likely to conflict with the European Council, which has been pressing for greater consumer protection. The vote follows a year of wrangling on the thorny issue of legal jurisdiction for ecommerce. The European Council wants to make firms selling over the web beholden to the consumer laws of the buyers' country. However, the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee decided by one vote to change this jurisdiction, so a company can only be sued under the laws of its registered country. The business merely has to inform the consumer the transaction will be carried out under its own laws. UK Tory MEP Teresa Villiers, who voted on the committee, said: "It's a sensible outcome. A return to the [European] Council proposals would be incredibly damaging to the EU's competitiveness." The move is bound to please many in the industry who have been up in arms about the issue, saying the EC policy would hurt ecommerce by requiring anyone trading over the internet to know the consumer regulations of all 15 EU member states. Mike Pullen, partner at law firm DLA, said the vote was great news for business, adding: "For once the [European] Parliament has done something entirely sensible, bringing the Brussels Convention in line with the Ecommerce Directive. What we need now is for industry to really get behind this, and the Council will have to listen." Lionel Stanbrook, deputy director general at the UK Advertising Association, who has been voicing industry concerns on the issue, said: "This is the emergence of common sense from a long dark period of confusion. This is a very complicated subject, for which it has been easy for lawyers to pull the wool over people's eyes." The vote does not mean the amendment will become law, but amendments from the Legal Affairs Committee usually pass through the Parliament, and the Council has to listen to its arguments. The problem was initiated by the European Council's attempt to update the Brussels Convention. However, a source within the EU today confirmed that business concerns have now been heard loud and clear.