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EU Commission plots to end rip-off Britain online

One consumer law regime to rule them all

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The EU will impose a single system of consumer laws across the bloc in a bid to encourage cross-border shopping online, Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said today.

She reckons that differences in laws on guarantees, cooling off periods and refunds deter retailers from selling to customers outside their home country, and consumers from trusting foreign businesses. Her announcement to an audience of businesses, policy wonks and consumer groups was the result of a consultation kicked off in February last year.

Kuneva said: "We must see to it that the adoption of the internet platform will not be unnecessarily slowed down by our failure to remove important regulatory barriers, to keep the market clean from rapidly evolving scams and to address key consumer issues of privacy and trust."

The Commission will detail its proposals for consumer law harmonisation in the Autumn. Legislation proposed by the Commission has to be approved by the European Parliament and 27 national governments in the Council of the European Union.

As well as deterring cross-border trade, companies such as Apple (via the iTunes store) have been accused of using European regulatory barriers to artificially inflate the price of consumer products in some territories. UK consumers often have reason to believe they're the patsies in the scam, dubbing the phenomenon "rip-off Britain".

Kuneva said: "We must reflect on the pertinence of restrictions imposed by suppliers to distribution over the internet... I will play an active role in the Commission's discussion on how consumer choice can be reconciled with other imperatives in online commerce." ®

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