Safer internet sites to buy electronic goods

EU-wide investigation involving 26 Member States, and Norway and Iceland, into misleading advertising and unfair practices on websites selling consumer electronic goods has already shown results. 84% of the websites selling electronics, checked for breach of EU consumer rules, now comply with EU law, compared to 55% last year. It now remains to achieve the same success in the case ticket sites, where 60% of checked sites were flagged for further investigation.

The problems identified included misleading information on consumer rights, incorrect prices and missing contact details of the trader, all of them are barriers which still hamper the potential development of e-commerce, mainly in cross-border on-line trade.

A sweep is an enforcement action led by the EU and carried out by national enforcement authorities which took place in May 2009. Enforcement authorities across Europe checked websites selling electronic goods for compliance with EU consumer law, and contacted operators about suspected irregularities and ask them to take corrective action.

Six popular product categories were selected for the check, including e.g. personal music players, digital cameras and mobile phones. Since then, national authorities have followed up on the problematic sites, requesting corrections and imposing sanctions when necessary.

Electronics sweep results

Overall, of 369 websites originally checked, 310 sites (84%) now comply with EU-wide consumer rules, compared with only 163 sites (44%) in May 2009. Sanctions for confirmed breaches included fines and closure of websites.

Main problems initially identified

  • Information about consumer rights: 86% of the websites checked now display clear and accurate information as required by law, compared with 64% in May 2009.
  • Information about the total price: 94% of the websites checked now display clear, and accurate information about the total cost, compared with 75% in May 2009.
  • Contact details of the trader: 95% of the websites checked now provide the required trader details, compared with 82% in May 2009.

The new sweep: ticketing sites

The latest sweep is now investigating on-line sales of tickets for cultural and sporting events. 414 sites have been checked, 167 (40%) were compliant, but 247 (60%) were flagged for further investigation for breach of consumer rules. National authorities are now in the enforcement phase when they contact the traders concerned and ask them to clarify their position or correct the problems identified.