Commission launches public consultation on unfair commercial practices affecting European businesses

The European Commission has launched a public consultation to gather more information from companies and other affected parties, about the nature and scale of unfair commercial practices, including online scams. Further to this consultation, the Commission will assess how best to stop rogue traders exploiting loopholes in the rules and make sure that legitimate traders are effectively protected.

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the nature and scale of the unfair commercial practices affecting EU businesses. This Communication will give an overview of how the Directive is currently implemented in the Member States, identify any problematic issues in the interpretation or application of the Directive and explore options for its possible review, including measures which could enhance cooperation between national authorities in the enforcement of cross-border cases.

As highlighted by Vice-President Reding, EU’s Justice Commissioner, this consultation will allow the Commission to adopt solid and effective Europe-wide rules to crack down on unfair practices and to make sure the culprits cannot hide behind national borders.

The practices which are object of this consultation can range from omitting important information or providing false or deceiving information about the offer, in particular in the form of misleading advertising, to using harassment, coercion or undue influence. One of the most common scheme for these practices are misleading directory companies for which a survey issued by the European Parliament in 2008 documented 13,000 complaints about company directory scams. Every day EU-based businesses, professionals and civil society organisations fall victim to unfair practices.

The fraudsters hide behind national borders and exploit the vulnerability of companies when doing business in other EU countries. The 23 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EU represent 99% of EU businesses and are especially vulnerable to scams. However, sometimes even large EU companies get trapped by fraudulent schemes. Professionals, such as doctors or lawyers, and civil society organisations can also be victims.

Interested parties will be able to submit their opinions at the public consultation on misleading and comparative advertising and on unfair commercial practices affecting businesses, until 16 December 2011.