The Malta Independent 28 June 2016, Tuesday

Rights of consumers, small businesses must be safeguarded in digital environment - Marlene Mizzi

Friday, 15 January 2016, 10:41 Last update: about 7 months ago

Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi urged the European Commission to better safeguard the rights of the consumers and small businesses when shopping or expanding their sales online in the new Commission's proposals covering areas of copyright, portability of internet services and digital contract rules.

On December 9 the Commission adopted two proposals as part of its strategy for the digital single market to tackle the main obstacles to cross-border e-commerce in the EU. The proposals aimed at tackling the legal fragmentation in the area of consumer contract law that results in high costs for businesses – especially SMEs- and low consumer trust when buying online from another country.

Speaking during the first exchange of views with Mrs Věra Jourová, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, in the European Parliament’s internal market committee, Ms Mizzi said, "Overall, the Commission package is a significant step forward, but much remains to be done. E-commerce is growing with rapid speed, but its full potential remains untapped both for businesses and consumers. We need a legal framework fit for the digital age to protect consumers by not burdening or overregulating rules for SMEs."

MEP Mizzi is concerned that the Commission's new proposals treat differently offline and online sales. "Improving consumer protection for both digital and tangible products is important for e-commerce to continue to flourish. I am worried that the Commission approach to treat offline and online sales differently will create more confusion and complexity by doubling EU and national rules in the same areas and even by lowering consumer standards in others."

MEP Mizzi was also critical of the fact that the proposal on digital content remains silent when it comes to the right of withdrawal. "When you pay for a movie or a song online, it must play, but if this is not the case, you should be able to get your money back. The Commission proposal is not very clear on how much time the consumer has to withdraw an online purchase, when should the content be defined as consumed etc.". MEP Mizzi asked the Commission to clarify these very essential questions in the new proposals.

During the same Committee session, Marlene Mizzi, also discussed with Professor Mario MONTI, Former Commissioner and Former Prime Minister of Italy, the new Single Market strategy proposed recently by the Commission on which MEP Mizzi has been appointed as the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) spokesperson.

MEP Mizzi reiterated that the Strategy does not address adequately the social dimensions of the Single Market. "The growing conflict between the exercise of fundamental rights and economic freedoms and the development of unfair competition can no longer be ignored and the social dimension of the market can no longer be overlooked. In the current hostile situation in Europe, we desperately need a highly competitive social market economy that works for the citizens not the other way around".

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