Consumer Legislation and E-Commerce Challenges


Where there is vigorous competition, and consumer confidence, there is economic growth. E-commerce drives both of these but there remain situations where traders exploit technology or consumer behavioural biases, and seek to compete on the wrong things –such as unrealistic up front prices. This harms competition and can reduce consumer trust, meaning that consumers consume less. This could occur when traders: i) prevent consumers from accessing, assessing or acting on information, and so make the wrong choice; ii) take advantage of their superior understanding of technology to collect data or money from consumers; iii) abuse the advantages of the internet (ease of set up, cross jurisdictional reach, access to markets) to misrepresent the price, the quality, the range of products on offer, or the service you will get.
Firms should therefore behave responsibly, and not seek to steal an unfair march on their competitors. Effective enforcement incentivises the right behaviours.
In order to enforce effectively, EU agencies need to prioritise robustly and build strong competence in internet investigation. Increasingly enforcement activities need to be run as international projects involving non EU enforcers and industry allies –and we need to be willing to protect overseas consumers as well as our own. It is important that the legal framework facilitates, rather than hinders, enforcement –so that for example investigators can easily discover the true identity of traders who run anonymous websites, that they are able to carry out covert test purchases, and so that websites causing harm to the economic interests of consumers can swiftly be removed.
There are a number of areas where the EU legislator should consider further work, in order to address those persistent threats that have proven difficult to eradicate so far: clarifying the scope of platform responsibility; extending consumer protection to all individuals; ensuring all CPC enforcers have clear robust evidence gathering powers; providing a straightforward and cheap website take down power; ensuring enforcers are able protect non EU consumers, and can secure redress.


consumer protection; e-commerce; European Union; unfair commercial practices directive; enforcement

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Antitrust & Public Policies
ISSN: 2284-3272

Iscrizione al Tribunale di Roma n. 300, del 12 dicembre 2013, modificata con registrazione n. Reg. Certificati 216 bis/2019

Last issue published on December 30, 2019