Five changes that will make a difference, big or small, to your consumer rights in 2018
The beginning of each year is often a time to reflect on resolutions and plan for the year ahead. As ECC Ireland is in the business of consumer rights we thought it would be a good idea to let you know about some of the changes that are coming down the line this year and that could potentially make a difference, big or small, for EU consumers.
Check out our top five consumers rights changes to watch out for in 2018 to get more information and other resource links for the new Package Travel Directive, geo-blocking, online subscription content, the revised Payment Services Directive, and ‘roam-like-at-home’/fair use policy changes.
This month’s consumer success story of the month looks at how ECC assisted an Irish consumer to get a replacement phone after his caught fire. The consumer query of the month involves a consumer having service issues with a subscription allowing him to watch live US sports games.
You can download your free January eBulletin PDF here or, alternatively, read on to find out more.
Top five consumer rights changes to watch out for in 2018
1. New and improved EU Package Travel Directive to cover more than just traditional package holidays from 1st July onwards:
This is in the number one slot for a very good reason as it will extend the scope of existing legislation to cover different types of ‘package holiday’. If you didn’t know it already, national legislation (The Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act 1995) has been in place for quite some time providing consumers with certain protections when they book a package holiday with an EU/EEA based trader. This came about as a result of the 1990 Package Travel Directive which was then transposed into the national legislation of each Member State.
However, the changing nature of how consumers prefer to book holidays – with most of it conducted online these days with the need for more flexibility – meant that the directive really needed a big make-over.
Queue the new and improved Directive (EU) 2015/2302 on Package Holidays and Linked Travel Arrangements which comes into effect from 1st July 2018. From this date, the legislation will apply to three different types of travel packages:
- Pre-arranged packages – Ready-made holidays bundled by a tour operator and made up of at least two of the following elements: transport, hotel or other services, like car hire.
- Customised packages – A selection of components for the same trip or holiday and bought from a single business online or offline. In other words, components that have been freely put together by the consumer but bought from the one trader.
- Linked travel arrangements – This means a combination of at least two different types of travel services purchased for the purposes of the same trip or holiday (not constituting a package) resulting in the conclusion of separate contracts with the individual travel providers. The types of situations covered are:
- An online or high-street travel agent acting as an intermediary facilitates the separate selection and separate payment of each travel service by the traveller
- A consumer buys a travel service from one trader and within 24 hours he/she independently organises at least one additional travel service from a second (separate) trader.
The new legislation will extend the benefits previously put in place by the 1990 Directive for ‘pre-arranged packages’ to other forms of combined travel. On top of this, the new rules mean that travellers will benefit from:
- Receiving transparent information regarding booking, cancellation rights, and prices.
- Clearer information on the sort of travel product they are buying and the corresponding level of protection.
- Traders facilitating ‘linked travel arrangements’ shall provide security for the refund of all payments they receive from travellers where a travel service has not been performed as a consequence of insolvency.
- Fairer and more predictable prices: An eight per cent cap on price increases by the operator. If the price is increased by more than this then the consumer has the right to cancel free of charge.
- Stronger cancellation rights for packages.
For more information, check out the European Commissions’s page on the Package Travel Directive.
2. EU’s committment to ending ‘unjustified geo-blocking’ to take significant step forward to becoming a reality:
Towards the end of November last year, it was announced that the European Parliament, the Council, and the Commission had reached political agreement to end ‘unjustified geo-blocking’ for consumers wishing to buy products or services online within the EU. The new rules are meant to come into force nine months after publication in the EU’s Official Journal. So, all going well (fingers crossed) the regulation should be officially adopted before the end of the year – just about. There is certainly a lot of work taking place at EU level this year to try to get it across the line in time.
What is geo-blocking and what will this draft legislation do?
Geo-blocking is a discriminatory practice that prevents online customers from accessing and purchasing products or services from a website based in another EU Member State. Companies and online retailer apply barriers and impose restrictions to consumers on the basis of their nationality or place of residence. Some examples include:
- Blocking access to websites across borders;
- Denying the possibility to complete an order, to purchase goods or to download content when accessing a website from abroad;
- Denying delivery or shipment across border; and/or
- Providing different prices and conditions depending on nationality, country of residence or location of the customer.
When the new rules do come into effect, they will define three specific situations where no justification and no objective criteria for a different treatment between customers from different EU Member State are conceivable from the outset. These are:
- The sale of goods without physical delivery. Example: A Belgium customer wishes to buy a refrigerator and finds the best deal on a German website. The customer will be entitled to order the product and collect it at the trader’s premises or organise devliery himself to his home.
- The sale of electronically supplied services. Example: A Bulgarian consumer wishes to buy hosting services for her website from a Spanish company. She will now have access to the service, can register and buy this service without having to pay additional fees compared to a Spanish customer.
- The sale of services provided in a special physical location. Example. An Italian family can buy a trip directly to an amusement park in France without being redirected to an Italian website.
The regulation does not impose an obligation to sell and does not harmonise prices. It does however address discrimination in access to goods and services in cases where it cannot be objectively justisfied (e.g. by VAT obligations or different legal requirements).
For more information:
- European Commission’s press release issued 20th November 2017.
- European Council – Geo-blocking: unlocking e-commerce in the EU.
You can also check out this video from the European Commission titled ‘E-commerce package – towards a European Single Market’ by clicking this link here or the image below.
3. Access to your own video-on-demand, music stream or video games subscriptions when travelling in the EU.
It is expected that in the first half of 2018 new rules will be brought in to allow consumers to use their online subscriptions for films, sports events, e-books, video games or music services when travelling in the EU.
This means that if you have a subscription with a service such as Netflix then you will be able to access your own catalogue of content just like you can at home – so, you’ll be able to continue to binge watch unintterrupted when you need a rest from all that sightseeing.
Content service providers will verify the subscriber’s country of residence by using means such as payment details, the existence of an internet contract or by checking the IP address. All providers who offer paid online content services will have to follow the new rules. Services provided without payment (such as online services of public TV or radio broadcasters) will have the possibility to decide to also provide portability to their subscribers.
This is an agreement related to the modernisation of the EU copyright rules as proposed by the European Commission in the Digital Single Market Strategy.
For more information:
- European Commission press release – Digital Single Market: EU negotiators agree on new rules allowing Europeans to travel and enjoy online content services across borders.
- ‘EU moves to allow online streaming without borders’, The Irish Times, 18th May 2017.
4. Consumers to benefit from revised Payment Services Directive from January
In case you missed it, the European Commission announced that the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) would be fully applicable from the 13th January 2018 onwards with the aim of making it cheaper, easier and safer to make electronic payments.
The new PSD2 rules:
- Prohibited surcharging, which are additional charges for payments with consumer credit or debit cards, both in shops and online;
- Opened the EU payment market to companies offering payment services, based on them gaining access to information about the payment account;
- Introduced strict security requirements for electronic payments and for the protection of consumers’ financial data;
- Enhanced consumers’ rights in numerous areas. These included reducing the liability for non-authorised payments and introducing an unconditional (‘no questions asked’) refund right for direct debits in Euro.
For more information:
- ECC Ireland news update – ‘Revised EU Payment Services Directive to lead to cheaper, safer, & more innovative electronic payments’.
- ‘Banks now have to allow access to customers’ account details’, Irish Independent, 12th January 2018.
- ‘Q&A: What do the new consumer payments rules mean for you?’, The Irish Times, 14th January 2018.
5. ‘Roam-like-at-home’ and fair use policy changes means bigger data allowance when travelling in the EU
In 2017, after years of work the EU finally introduced the ‘roam-like-at-home’ regulations which made it easier for consumers to make calls, send texts, and even use data (subject to allowance) without incurring extra costs – or at least very little – while on trips to other Member States.
While calls and texts you make when roaming are exactly the same as if you were still home, the amount of data that is subject to ‘roam-like-at-home’ depends on the type of contract you have with your provider and what allowance there is.
In cases of unlimited data and very cheap data contracts, or when you go beyond your ‘roam-like-at-home’ limits, operators can apply what is known as a ‘fair usage policy’. For data, consumers can now avail of an even bigger allowance as the price your operator has to pay another operator for 1GB of data has, as of 1st of January 2018, been reduced from €7.70 per GB to €6 per GB. In contracts where data is not unlimited, the operator can only apply a ‘roam-like-at-home’ data limit if you pay less than €3 per GB of data used (reduced in 2018). There are a few formulas to work this out but it all means good things for consumers.
For more information:
- ECC Ireland’s mobile roaming page
- European Commission’s roaming in the EU page
- European Commission’s ‘End of roaming charges for all travellers in the European Union: How does it work?’ factsheet.
Consumer success story of the month:
An Irish consumer bought a phone from a trader via an online marketplace. Unfortunately, the phone caught fire while charging and the charger also melted. The consumer contacted the trader who requested that the phone be returned for inspection and repair. The consumer returned the phone but every time he requested an update he was asked for the IMEI number which he doesn’t have. The trader eventually stopped replying to the consumer altogether.
ECC Ireland then pursued the matter through our colleagues at UK ECC who contacted the trader outlining the consumer’s rights under EU Directive 99/44/EC, specifically in relation to faulty/defective goods and the obligation on traders to provide remedies where ‘lack of conformity’ with the contract exists. The trader replied stating that the phone was beyond repair and offered the consumer a different (new model) device as a remedy.
Consumer query of the month:
Q: I recently subscribed to a pass that grants access to on-demand US sports games live. However, there’s recently been problems with the service due to a new company taking over. I’ve written to the trader on the website’s contact form but I’ve received no response. I would like to get a full refund but the trader has only offered a blanket 20% refund to all users. I don’t think that this is satisfactory given the level of problems with the service. What are my rights?
A: The first thing to establish here would be whether or not you were fully informed about the main characteristics and compatibility of the digital content with hardware and software; this can be at the time when you initially signed up and paid for the service or when the new company took over resulting in changes to the service.
Article 5 of the Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU states: “Before the consumer is bound by a contract other than a distance or an off-premises contract, or any corresponding offer, the trader shall provide the consumer with the following information in a clear and comprehensible manner, if that information is not already apparent from the context”…(g) “where applicable, the functionality, including applicable technical protection measures, of digital content;”…(h) “where applicable, any relevant interoperability of digital content with hardware and software that the trader is aware of or can reasonably be expected to have been aware of.” Therefore, it would need to be ascertained whether the trader had indicated that your computer/device would need to have certain features (i.e. java script) and if it would only work on certain generations of devices prior to purchase. If that is the case, then it would be difficult to prove that the product itself lacks conformity if your device was not compatible. It would also need to be confirmed that the trader provided you with the required pre-contractual information.
If the trader failed to provide this information then there could be grounds to contact the trader with the view to seeking further redress.
Press and Communications Officer
The European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), which covers 30 countries (all EU countries plus Norway and Iceland), and offers a free and confidential information and advice service to the public on their rights as consumers, assisting customers with cross-border disputes. ECC Ireland is funded by the European Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, the European Consumer Centre cannot be held responsible for matters arising from any errors or omissions contained in this publication. The information provided is intended as a guide only and not as a legal interpretation.
© 2018 – European Consumer Centre (Ireland), CLG incorporated in Ireland, No. 367035, Registered Charity No. 20048617 – CHY14708. Located at MACRO Centre, 1 Green Street, Dublin 7.
This ebulletin was funded by the European Union’s Consumer Programme (2014-2020).
The content of this ebulletin represents the views of the author only and it is his/her sole responsibility; it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the Consumers, Health, Agriculture, and Food Executive Agency (CHAFEA) or any other body of the European Union. The European Commission and the Agency do not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.