New Warranty Regulations For Online Shops Ante Portas

Author:Mr Georg Kresbach and Eva Heil
Profession:Wolf Theiss

Under the current legal situation regarding cross-border business transactions, operators of online shops must provide individual platforms for each EU member state to fulfill all specific national legal requirements. Notwithstanding the technical capabilities of the internet today, it is still not possible to provide just one general online shop for the whole European area. According to the "Flash Eurobarometer 396, 2015" survey, 39% of businesses selling online but not cross-border quote different national contract laws as one of the main obstacles to cross-border sales.

Thus, on December 9th, 2015 the European Commission presented a proposal for a directive on certain aspects concerning contracts for the online and other distance sales of goods (COM(2015) 635) as part of the strategy to implement a European digital single market (COM(2015) 192). With this directive the European Commission seeks to achieve that providers of online shops are able to focus their online business into one single platform for the European area as well as to ensure that consumers are able to purchase goods digitally in the EU under harmonized legal standards. By eliminating the key contract law-related barriers hindering cross-border trade, the rules put forward in the proposals will reduce the uncertainty faced by businesses and consumers due to the complexity of the legal framework and the costs incurred by businesses resulting from differences in contract law.

Context of the proposed directive (COM(2015) 635) is the online sale of goods, the purchase of tangible movable items including standard mass products as well as individualized produced goods. This directive does not apply to goods like DVDs and CDs incorporating digital content in such a way that the goods function only as a carrier of the digital content, neither it applies to distance contracts for provision of services. Furthermore, where a sale contract provides both for the sale of goods and the provision of services, this directive applies only to the part relating to the sale of goods.

The focus of this proposal for a directive (COM(2015) 635) is to fully harmonize the warranty laws for consumers regarding the distance sale of goods. It is an open question whether the new warranty law should be used for stationary trade as well.

The new proposed directive particularly provides for a full harmonization of criteria for the goods, of the hierarchy of the remedies available to consumers and of the periods...

To continue reading