Commission presents new proposals for fully harmonised directives on e-commerce

As already announced in its Digital Single Market Strategy adopted on 6 May 2015, the Commission has, on 9 December 2015, finally presented a legislative initiative on harmonised rules for the supply of digital content and online sales of goods. The Commission explains: “This initiative is composed of (i) a proposal on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content (COM(2015)634 final), and (ii) a proposal on certain aspects concerning contracts for the online and other distance sales of goods (COM(2015)635 final). These two proposals draw on the experience acquired during the negotiations for a Regulation on a Common European Sales Law. In particular, they no longer follow the approach of an optional regime and a comprehensive set of rules. Instead, the proposals contain a targeted and focused set of fully harmonised rules” (COM(2015)634, p. 1). From the perspective of legal policy, this change of approach can only be applauded (see already in this sense von Hein, Festschrift Martiny [2014], p. 365, 389: “Die beste Lösung dürfte aber eine effektive Harmonisierung des europäischen Verbraucherrechts auf einem verbindlichen Niveau darstellen, das optionale Sonderregelungen für den internationalen Handel überflüssig machen würde.”) According to the Commission, “[t]he proposals also build on a number of amendments adopted by the European Parliament in first reading concerning the proposal for a Regulation on the Common European Sales Law, in particular the restriction of the scope to online and other distance sales of goods and the extension of the scope to certain digital content which is provided against another counter-performance than money” (COM(2015)634, p. 1).

On the relationship between the new directive on certain aspects concerning contracts for the online and other distance sales of goods and the existing Brussels Ibis and Rome I Regulations, the Commission elaborates (COM(2015)635, p. 4):

“The proposal is compatible with the existing EU rules on applicable law and jurisdiction in the Digital Single Market. Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters and the Regulation (EC) No 593/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 on the law applicable to contractual obligations (Rome I), which provide rules to determine the competent jurisdiction and applicable law, apply also in the digital environment. These instruments have been adopted quite recently and the implications of the internet were considered closely in the legislative process. Some rules take specific account of internet transactions, in particular those on consumer contracts. These rules aim at protecting consumers inter alia in the Digital Single Market by giving them the benefit of the non-derogable rules of the Member State in which they are habitually resident. Since the current proposal on the online and other distance sales of goods aims at harmonising the key mandatory provisions for the consumer protection, traders will no longer face such wide disparities across the 28 different legal regimes. Together with the proposed new contract rules for online and other distance sales of goods as set out in this proposal, the existing rules on private international law establish a clear legal framework for buying and selling in a European digital market, which takes into account both consumers’ and businesses’ interests. Therefore, this legislative proposal does not require any changes to the current framework of EU private international law, including to Regulation (EC) No 593/2008 (Rome I).”

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