European Standards on Internet trading


European Standards on Internet trading

Thursday, 11 February, 2016

The European Union is enhancing its efforts to assist consumers with their rights in receiving a fair deal. For the past few years, the website “Your Europe” of the European Union has published the basic consumer rights in cross border e-commerce issues. The cornerstone of the consumer rights has already established some twenty years ago, when the European Commission established the right of the consumers to have all small prints in contracts subject to being examined and potentially overturned by the courts. This will not be enough in the future, as a new EU directive will require companies offering their products or services within the European Union to provide a link on their Website to the information contained in the new portal “Your Europe”. This portal will start to operate on February 15, 2016, according to the European Commission. This website will be a free of charge interactive website, which intends to facilitate consumer disputes originating from online-closed contracts.

The consumer portal “Your Europe” established by the European Union is explicitly enlisting all the consumer rights in every language of the member states of the European Union. The Website explains in detail the consumer rights based on the code of the EU online rights. In differentiating to the legal system of each member state, it informs the consumer what provisions can be regarded as invalid, what clauses of the contract can be objected and what parts of the agreements can be simply disregarded. The website provides information of how to contact the national regulator for internet service providers and the various national regulatory authorities. It also provides information about out-of-court settlements and the possibility of alternative or online dispute resolutions. As court procedures are expensive in most member states, the European Court also wants to enhance the European small claims procedures to which all EU member states have agreed to with the exception of Denmark. Such small claims procedures can be used for claims up to a value of € 2.000,00 based on the council regulation 861/2007 of July 11, 2007. Even though, it is rather simple to fill out the form and file it electronically with the respective court, in case the company rejects the claim and files a defense, the proceeding will still end up in courts. The European Union estimates, that some € 750 million disputes in cross boarder e-commerce arise each year in Europe. Even though the number seems to be high, American service recons, that only about one to two percent of all e-commerce transactions worldwide generate a dispute, many of those between private buyers not including a company or a whole sale distributor.

In Austria the Austrian consumer protection act also provides coverage for the e-commerce and is widely used in Austrian courts. Experience shows that one of the main support for a consumers claim is still providing evidence, as many cases are launched without any printed out paper evidence at all. In early days, when most contracts have been verbal, the lawyer’s advice supported to sign a short contract or at least get written evidence. The lawyers advise remains into this e-commerce to at least print out a screenshot or get some other paper documentation about purchasing products or services in the e-commerce world.

Dr Christoph Kerres LLM (Georgetown)

For more legal information please contact Mr Kerres via tel +43 (1) 516 60 or e-mail

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