The European Commission and the European Parliament adopted the revision of the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Regulation in November 2017, broadening the scope of the former rules and strengthening the powers of the national authorities cooperating on cross-border EU consumer-law infringements. The CPC Regulation entered into force in January 2018 and will apply from 17th January 2020.
The salient features of the new CPC Regulation are outlined below.
The term “Competent Authority” is defined by the Regulation as any public authority established either at national, regional or local level which is responsible for enforcing the Union laws that protect consumers’ interests.
Competent authorities are required to fulfil their obligations under the Regulation as though acting on behalf of consumers in their own Member State and on their own account. They are also required to reply to information and enforcement requests in set time periods, unless otherwise agreed.
In the digital environment in particular, the Competent Authorities should be able to stop infringements quickly and effectively, notably where the trader selling goods or services conceals its identity or relocates within the Union or to a third country to avoid enforcement.
Consumers in turn should be entitled to redress for harm caused by infringements, including repairs, replacement, price reduction, termination of contracts or reimbursement of the price.
In the context of widespread infringements, the rights of defence of the traders concerned should be respected. This requires, in particular, giving the trader the right to be heard.
Competent authorities are also required to have at least the following investigative powers under their own authority:
- to access any relevant document or information related to an infringement in any form;
- to require the supply of any relevant information or data from any public authority or body within its own country. This includes tracing financial and data flows and bank account information, ascertaining the identity of persons involved and ownership of websites;
- to carry on-site inspections, including the power to enter any premises or property that the trader uses for purposes related to his trade;
- the power to purchase goods, acting as mystery shoppers in coordination with the Commission.
Competent Authorities must also have, at least, the following enforcement powers under their own authority:
- to adopt interim measures to prevent the risk of serious harm to consumers;
- to seek to obtain or accept commitments from the trader responsible for the infringement to cease such infringement;
- to receive from the trader, on its own initiative, additional remedial commitments for consumers affected by the alleged infringement;
- bring about the cessation or the prohibition of the infringement.
- to request, as a last resort, a third party or other public authority to implement such measures, in order to prevent the risk of serious harm to the collective interests of consumers:
- to remove content or restrict access to an online interface or to order the explicit display of a warning to consumers when accessing the online interface;
- to order a hosting service provider to remove, disable or restrict the access to an online interface; or
- where appropriate, order domain registries or registrars to delete a fully qualified domain name and allow the competent authority concerned to register it.
- impose penalties, such as fines or periodic penalty payments for the failure to comply with any measure adopted pursuant to this Regulation. Such penalties must be effective and proportionate with the requirements of Union law.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to impart legal advice and readers are asked to seek verification of statements made before acting on them.