EU forces websites to offer better protection to Internet users

A better protection of e-commerce users automatically leads to more confidence from these users, and therefore also to more purchases of both physical and digital goods. Through targeted audits, the EU intends to impose this protection.

The European Commission regularly organises a “sweep”, i.e. an audit where websites chosen at random in a certain sector are scrutinized. These audits are conducted to ensure that websites fully comply with the rules of the consumer protection regulations. When he fails to comply with these rules, the owner of the website is contacted and notified about the glitch. If no reaction is received within the set time, a penalty can be charged.

In June 2012, the EC held a “Digital Content Sweep” aimed at websites from the 26 member states of the EU, Norway and Iceland. This time, the focus was on websites that sell music and online games. 330 sites, which all together represent a large part of the market, were audited. 172 of them did not play the game by the rules, and their owners were contacted. In the meantime, 116 of them have taken steps to comply with the rules, and for 49 of them, further procedures followed. However, the action produced great results: now, 80% of the websites that were originally audited comply with the rules of the European legislation, while the result was barely over 50% during the audit.

What aspects does the EU check? And, by extension, what should you consider when your website sells digital content? Audits conducted by the EC usually revealed compliance issues related to the following aspects:

  • Unfair contract terms, depriving users of their right to take legal steps or their right to claim compensation when the product is defective;
  • Unclear information about the right of cancellation: since digital downloads are concerned, the seller must warn users that they cannot cancel the download once it has started;
  • The absence of the required information about the identity of the seller, in particular its e-mail address, making it impossible for users to get in touch with the seller. This is not a new issue and yet, many merchants still haven’t taken the necessary steps to avoid problems.

If you sell digital content online, you really should make sure that your website complies with these rules!