Commission proposes new rules to improve cross-border cooperation of consumer authorities

BEUC NEWS - 25.05.2016

The Commission today unveiled a proposal to improve the way authorities at national level cooperate to protect consumers. Collaboration of different national authorities in a single market is essential, particularly at a time when consumers increasingly shop across borders and companies operate in different countries. Unfortunately, today some national authorities lack the powers to follow up on certain complaints, which makes cross-border cooperation difficult.

 

The revision of the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation (2006) is an attempt to correct that. The Commission is proposing to give more investigative powers to national consumer authorities so that all of them can, for example, request and obtain information from other bodies (e.g. domain name providers, bank details) or take down websites or suspend payments to companies that are being investigated.

For example, if an online company based in Ireland provides ‘free’ online gaming apps but then prevents the consumer from accessing the next level without payment, it is unfair commercial practice. If the consumer is Belgian, he would complain to the Belgian authority which would then ask the Irish authority to take action. But the Irish authority may not have the powers to get information from the domain name providers or banks to find out who is behind the website/app and where the consumer payments lead to. With the proposed review, all authorities will have such powers and therefore be more efficient enforcers.

The ‘alert’ system in place to warn some bodies about unfair practices in the market has rightfully opened up to more entities, including consumer organisations.