eCommerce: how the EU can protect consumers online

With people now shopping more online, it’s vitally important that platforms behave ethically and in a socially responsible manner, argues Maria Grapini.
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By Maria Grapini

08 Jun 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has affected the European Union’s internal market, our entrepreneurs - particularly SMEs - and also consumers.

As a Vice-President of the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee, I supported a package of legislative proposals for improved regulation in the field of consumer protection, especially for e-commerce, both in the Committee and also in the S&D political group.

Why e-commerce? Because EU citizens - in lockdown due to the Coronavirus crisis - have become much more used to shopping online.


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We must ensure that the quality and safety conditions of all products, including digital content, are respected.

In the IMCO Committee, we have five projects that can improve consumer protection: a Digital Services Act draft report with recommendations for the European Commission on improving the functioning of the single market; a draft report on addressing product safety in the single market, and a draft Digital Services Act opinion on fundamental rights issues.

“We must introduce legislative measures to strengthen product safety and consumer protection through strong rules, by promoting digital corporate responsibility”

In addition, we have a Digital Services Act draft opinion with recommendations on adapting commercial and civil law rules for commercial entities operating online and a draft report on the transition to a more sustainable single market for businesses and consumers.

I believe we must ensure that the adopted legislation respects the principle that what is illegal offline is illegal online.

I have always supported having equal and clear conditions of fair and ethical competition in the Internal Market between the digital and the traditional economy, with both respecting consumer rights.

Unfortunately, we have seen misleading trading practices in e-commerce, and these have intensified during the current pandemic.

This is why in the resolution proposed by Parliament; we supported the introduction of enforceable obligations for online providers and appropriate sanctions.

During this period, we also encountered misinformation and harmful data that may be illegal. This is why, in the draft opinions that the IMCO Committee provided for the recent legislative package, it requested the introduction of a well-defined process of notice-and-takedown of misleading data content.

The IMCO Committee has also asked the European Commission to clarify what sanctions or other restrictions should be imposed to intermediaries and advertising platforms if they knowingly accept false information.

The IMCO Committee welcomes the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network’s position the regarding the most recent scams and unfair practices related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The COVID-19 crisis has shown that rapid action and greater cooperation between consumer protection activities and online platforms are needed in order to ensure consumer protection in these sensitive times”

In the resolution, the transition to a more sustainable single market for businesses and consumers, there was a special chapter dedicated to digital strategies in the service of a sustainable market.

Here, there is a common data space and a product passport, as a means of traceability and transparency, in order to improve consumer protection.

We also advocated for responsible marketing and advertising, to prevent the advertising of services and products that have a negative effect on consumers.

Currently, the lack of clear safety and responsibility provisions for both companies that produce and companies that sell endangers consumers. In order to close the existing gaps, we will have to offer European solutions regarding the rules of civil liability.

Personally, I support the digitalisation of the internal market to a greater extent, I support e-commerce, but at the same time we must introduce legislative measures to strengthen product safety and consumer protection through strong rules, by promoting digital corporate responsibility.

Our safety and quality standards should be appropriate to the specific stages and situations. Safety, consumer protection and high-quality standards must be a trademark of the Single Market.

The COVID-19 crisis has shown that rapid action and greater cooperation between consumer protection activities and online platforms are needed in order to ensure consumer protection in these sensitive times, when consumers are particularly vulnerable.

Consumers have tended to be in contact with multiple online platforms during lockdown and that is why we must ensure not only the transparency of the platforms, but also their accountability.

Platforms must behave ethically and in a socially responsible manner. I will always be a supporter of consumer rights and firm measures against fraud, counterfeiting and scams.

Read the most recent articles written by Maria Grapini - Supporting our SMEs

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