Directive 2006/123/EC on Services in the Internal Market, also known as ‘The Services Directive’ aims to improve the growth potential of the services market in the European Union by removing legal and administrative barriers. The Directive strengthens the rights of service recipients, both consumers and businesses and prohibits trade discrimination based on nationality, residence or imposition of tariffs. It sets out measures to promote the high quality of all services and enhance information and transparency relating to the service provision. It was transposed into Irish law in November 2010 by Statutory Instrument number SI 533/2010.
The Role of ECC Ireland
We can offer you advice on:
- What to check before seeking and availing of services in another EU Member State
- Your legal rights should a problem occur
- Contact details of agencies that will offer you further assistance
We handle this type of queries on a case-by-case basis. If the information you require is not available on our website, please contact us and we will assist free of charge.
Article 21 of the Services Directive states that EU countries must ensure that service recipients can obtain the following information about service provision and consumer rights in other EU Member States.
1. General information on consumer rights
ECC Ireland provides information on consumer rights in other Member States with the assistance of Article 21 designated bodies in the respective EU Member States. It also liaises with the relevant Article 21 bodies in the other Member States in relation to specific queries.
- 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.
2. General information on redress options for consumer-service provider disputes
ECC Ireland will provide information about how consumers can receive assistance in the case of a cross-border dispute with a service provider based in another EU Member State, particularly relating to:
- Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms in each EU 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 but we aim to make it as comprehensive as possible.
3. Contact information of associations or organisations, including within the European Consumer Centres Network, from which providers or recipients may obtain practical assistance.
Article 20 states EU countries must ensure that recipients of services are not subjected to discriminatory conditions based on their nationality or place of residence unless an objective justification can be provided for the differences in the nature or price of the services, “where those differences are directly justified by objective criteria”.
Example: An EU tourist travelling to another EU Member State has the same rights in terms of accessing services as the residents of that particular Member State, and cannot be discriminated against by being provided with the same service in a different way or for a different price. Similarly, a consumer should meet no obstacles in accessing services online regardless of his geographical location and residence.
Not every difference in the nature or price of the service constitutes discrimination. Indeed, businesses may have valid reasons for applying different conditions and traders charging different prices to different consumers or withholding trade, and these may not necessarily be in breach of EU consumer law.
Service providers responsibilities
All traders must ensure that the following information is available to their customers at first instance:
- 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 at the physical location where the service is provided.
All traders must ensure that the following information will be to their customers upon request:
- 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, do their best to find a satisfactory solution, and inform customers of dispute resolution procedures they follow.
Services covered by the Services Directive
Subject to a few exceptions, the Services Directive applies to all services by private individuals and businesses such as:
- 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 childminders).
Services excluded from 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).
Points of Contact
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.
Competition and Consumer Protection Commission
Information on your national consumer rights.
Small Claims Procedure
If the matter is not resolved amicably, you may consider taking a small claims action. This is open to consumers whose claim does not exceed €2,000.
Should you require information with respect to the Services Directive on the designated information organisations in other European Union Member States, please find the local centre in this list here:
Read the handbook on the implementation of the Services Directive here: