European digital contract rules proposed – good news for online traders with ambition to scale


The Commission, delivering on its digital single market strategy proposes modern digital contract rules to simplify and promote access to digital content and online sales across the EU. Traders involved in B2C online sales can look forward to the possibility of scaling their business to new European markets without making adjustments of their T&C for local rules.

On 9 December, the Commission presented two proposals to better protect consumers who shop online across the EU and help businesses expand their online sales, one for digital content and another for goods.

Rules regarding pre-contractual information and right of withdrawal is already fully harmonized. Still, only 15% of consumers purchase online from another EU country, while roughly three times as many (44%) do so from their own country. European consumers seemingly have a low level of trust when shopping abroad and prefer to stick to their own domestic market. The main reason identified for this is that there is an uncertainty of consumer key contractual rights in other markets. As for today, a Swedish company scaling their business to other European markets have to relate to a patchwork of national laws which obviously is combined with material legal COSTs.

According to the Commission’s press release, the two proposals will tackle the main obstacles to cross-border e-commerce in the EU: legal fragmentation in the area of consumer contract law (and resulting high costs for businesses) and low consumer trust when buying online from another country. The result will be that consumers will benefit from a higher level of consumer protection and a wider choice of products at more competitive prices.

One have to say, the proposal is ambitious, and the new consumer protection rules are quite detailed. The proposal includes inter alia a prolongation from 6 months to 2 years of the shift of burden of proof in relation to damaged goods (meaning that during said time the trader is to prove the absence of lack of conformity at time of delivery), new rules on conformity and remedies in case of non-conformity and a stronger right to terminate consumer contact.

Although adjusting current T&C to the new rules will be combined with initial cost, the budget needed for scaling within the EU will radically change. The big upside however, would be if the Commission’s analysis on the reasons for cross-border online sales remaining on such a low level prove right. If so, the proposal will not only lead to less costs but also to a veritable boost for cross-border online sales.

For further information, please contact Anna Forsebäck.

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