The Services Directive strengthens the rights of recipients of services, which can be both consumers and businesses. For instance, it prohibits discriminatory conditions based on the nationality or residence of the service recipient, such as discriminatory tariffs. It also lays down a set of measures to promote a high quality of services and to enhance information and transparency relating to services providers and their services. Further, the Services Directive obliges the Member States to cooperate with each other in order to ensure efficient supervision of providers and their services.
A wide range of services come within the scope of the Directive, and without being exhaustive the following are examples: online and offline retail sale of goods and services, services in the field of tourism and leisure, accommodation and food services, rental services, construction services as well as the activities of most regulated professions such as tax advisers or architects. In total, the services covered by the Directive represent about 40% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), roughly twice as much as manufacturing.
Directive 2006/123/EC on Services in the Internal Market ‘Services Directive’ aims to release the growth potential of services markets in Europe by removing legal and administrative barriers to trade in the services sector.
The Services Directive was transposed into Irish law in November 2010 by Statutory Instrument number SI 533/2010.
How can we help
We can offer you advice on the following:
• What to check before availing of services in another member state
• Your legal rights if there is a problem
• Contact details of agencies that will offer you further assistance
Due to the vast amount of services covered by the Services Directive, information is gathered on a case-by-case basis. If the information you require is not available on our website, please contact ECC Ireland and we will gather the information you require free of charge.
A list of bodies designated by Member States to provide information and assistance to service recipients who wish to receive services from providers based in other Member States can be found at this link.
Article 21 of the Services Directive states that:
“Member States shall ensure that recipients can obtain, in their Member State of residence, the following information:
(a) general information on the requirements applicable in other Member States relating to access to, and exercise of, service activities, in particular those relating to consumer protection;
In this regard, ECC Ireland, with the assistance of Article 21 bodies in other Member States, provides, or provides a link to, general information about the rights of consumers in other Member States, and liaises with the relevant Article 21 bodies in the other Member State. As much of consumer law in the Member States derives from EU legislation, there are likely to be common features to legislation across the EU. The general information, therefore, should include your rights relating to:
- The sale of services
- Unfair terms in consumer contracts
- Distance selling
- Electronic Commerce
- Contracts negotiated away from business premises, and
- Any significant changes resulting from the implementation of the Services Directive in other Member States.
A consumer availed of a recreation facility while on holidays. The consumer was injured due to a fault within the facility. The consumer requested a refund from the trader, which was rejected. The consumer contacted a member of the ECC network and through our intervention the consumer was able to secure a refund of €1811.12.
A consumer sent motorbike parts to a trader in another Member State to have them modified. The consumer’s credit card was charged for €1,256. However the modified parts were not shipped to the consumer.
The consumer contacted the trader but received no response. The consumer then contacted their local ECC and who contacted our colleagues in the traders ECC who then reached an amicable agreement with the trader and the consumer received the items ordered.
(b) general information on the means of redress available in the case of a dispute between a provider and a recipient. In this regard, ECC Ireland will provide, or will provide a link to, information about how consumers can receive assistance in the case of a cross-border dispute with a service provider based in another Member State. In particular, ECC Ireland aims to provide, or provide links to, relevant information, in respect of all Member States, relating to:
- Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms in each Member State
- Ombudsman services, including the national ombudsman (or equivalent) and similar support services
- Regulatory bodies
- Trade associations
- Independent mediators and procedures for small claims courts
This list is indicative and ECC Ireland will work with the Article 21 body responsible for business, as necessary, in compiling the above information to ensure that it is as comprehensive as possible.
A consumer bought an apartment in Italy through a UK legal firm. He discovered that the apartment he bought is not the one he believed he was buying and the UK firm refuses to return his money. ECC Ireland recommended him to contact the Law Society of the UK on this matter
(c) the contact details of associations or organisations, including the centres of the European Consumer Centres Network, from which providers or recipients may obtain practical assistance.”
In all instances, ECC Ireland will ensure that information and assistance is provided in a clear and unambiguous manner and is easily accessible at a distance, including by electronic means.
A consumer contacted ECC-Net requesting information on who in Italy regulates legal profession? Or the equivalent of Law society in Ireland. The Consumer was forwarded the link and contact information for the Italian body responsible for the legal profession in Italy.
Obliges Member States to ensure that the recipients of services are not subjected to discriminatory conditions based either on their nationality or place of residence unless an objective justification can be provided.
Article 20(2) states that:
“general conditions of access to a service, which are made available to the public at large by the provider, do not contain discriminatory provisions relating to the nationality or place of residence of the recipient”.
A tourist moving to the territory of another Member State places himself in a situation very similar to that of residents in the Member State where the service is provided, and therefore may feel discriminated if confronted with service or price differentiation. Similarly, a consumer does not expect to be faced with obstacles and geographic borders while trying to avail of services available online.
However, Article 20.2 also provides that differences in the conditions of access can be applied “where those differences are directly justified by objective criteria”. As such, it needs to be noted, that not every difference in treatment will therefore necessarily constitute discrimination. Indeed, businesses may have valid reasons for applying different conditions and traders charging different prices to different consumers or refusing to trade may not necessarily be in breach of EU consumer law.
Service providers will have to ensure that the following information is available to their customers:
• The name, legal status, form, and address of the business
• If registered in a trade or other similar public register, the register’s name and the registration number
• Particulars of the regulator if subject to an authorisation scheme in Ireland or other EEA country
• The relevant ID number if the service is subject to VAT
• If carrying on a regulated profession, any professional body or similar institution with which the business is registered, the professional title and the EEA country in which that title was granted
• General terms and conditions
• The existence of any contractual terms concerning the competent courts or the law applicable to the contract
• The existence of any after-sales guarantee not imposed by law
• The price of the service, where pre-determined
• The main features of the service, if not clear from the context
• If required to hold professional liability insurance or a guarantee, information about the cover and contact details of the insurer and territorial coverage
• The contact details where customers can make a complaint
They may provide this information on their website, in any documents supplied to customers or where the service is provided.
Service providers will have to supply certain information if a customer asks for it, including:
• The price of the service, where not pre-determined, or a sufficiently detailed estimate
• If carrying on a regulated profession, a reference to the professional rules in the country where they are established and how to access them.
• Information on other activities carried out by the business that is directly linked to the service and measures taken to avoid conflict of interest.
• Codes of conduct to which the business is subject and the websites from which these are available.
Service providers must resolve complaints as quickly as possible, doing their best to find a satisfactory solution, and inform customers of any codes of conduct or dispute-resolution procedures they follow.
Service providers must not discriminate on the grounds of nationality or place of residence. If you would like further clarification on any point above or any matter linked with accessing a service provider please feel free to contact us.
Services that are covered by the Services Directive:
Subject to a few exceptions, the Services Directive applies to the provision of a wide ranging amount of services involving private individuals and businesses. For example, it covers –
• distributive trades (including retail and wholesale goods and services)
• the activities of most regulated professions (such as legal and tax advisers, architects, engineers, accountants, surveyors)
• construction services and crafts
• business-related services (such as office maintenance, management consultancy, event organisation, debt recovery, advertising and recruitment services)
• tourism services (e.g. travel agents)
• leisure services (e.g. sports centres and amusement parks)
• installation and maintenance of equipment
• information society services (e.g. publishing – print and web, news agencies, computer programming)
• accommodation and food services (including hotels, restaurants and caterers)
• training and education services
• rentals and leasing services (including car rentals)
• real estate services
• household support services (such as cleaning, gardening and private nannies).
The following services are explicitly excluded under the Services Directive:
• financial services
• electronic communication services with respect to matters covered by other community instruments
• transport services falling into Title V of the EC Treaty
• healthcare services provided by healthcare professionals to patients, including assessing, maintaining or restoring their state of health where those activities are reserved to a regulated health profession
• temporary work agencies’ services
• private security services
• audiovisual services
• certain social services provided by the State, providers mandated by the State or by charities recognised as such by the State
• services provided by notaries and bailiffs (appointed by an official act of government).
Contact points for business queries
The Irish Point of Single Contact (PSC) is a facility to make it easier for service providers to access their chosen markets in Ireland. The PSC connects service providers with the necessary competent authorities and helps them to complete all relevant procedures. If you require further information or assistance from the PSC, you may contact them as follows –
Single Market Unit,
Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation,
23 Kildare Street,
Offers advice and assistance for businesses in relation to the Services Directive.
Competition and Consumer Protection Commission
Information on your national consumer rights.
Small Claims Procedure
If the matter is not resolved amicably, you can consider this procedure if your claim does not exceed 2,000 euro.
European Commission Internal Market
If you want to learn more about EU policies in this sector.
Your Europe Portal
If you want to learn more about your rights.