of 7 April 1992
on codes of practice for the protection of consumers in respect of contracts negotiated at a distance (distance selling)
THE COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES,
Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community,
Whereas measures must be taken for the gradual establishment of the internal market, and cross-frontier distance selling may be one of the main tangible signs for consumers of completion of the market;
Whereas it has been decided to set out in the form of a Directive a basic set of minimum consumer protection rules which are necessary for the proper functioning of the market; whereas one of the reasons for this initiative is concern to avoid fragmentation of the national legislation;
Whereas these mandatory basic rules should be supplemented by voluntary self-regulatory arrangements in the form of codes of practice;
Whereas firms engaging in transactions by means of contracts negotiated at a distance make use of certain particular methods of sales promotion; whereas these methods give rise to special problems as a result of the means of communication used; whereas it is thus particularly necessary to ensure that the consumer is sufficiently informed;
Whereas payment in advance may pose a problem of financial security for the consumer; whereas such risk is particularly high where the supplier in question can be identified and located only with difficulty; whereas it is essential to give the consumer the assurance that he will be reimbursed in case of non-execution of the contract;
Whereas a firm which subscribes to a code informs its customers of the fact; whereas the consumer must therefore be able to acquaint himself with the content of this code and must know what to do if he thinks it has not been complied with;
Whereas the Commission will in due course evaluate the putting into effect of this recommendation; whereas it will consider at that time whether other measures appear necessary,
HEREBY RECOMMENDS: That the trade associations of suppliers:
1. should adopt codes of practice, with the particular aim of stating precisely, for the sectors concerned and means of communication used, the minimum rules contained in the Directive on 'contracts negotiated at a distance';
2. should include the points listed in the Annex in such codes;
3. should ensure that their members comply with the codes;
4. should inform the Commission, one year after the publication of the Directive in the Official Journal of the European Communities, of the content of the codes and the response by their members.
Done at Brussels, 7 April 1992. For the Commission
Karel VAN MIERT
Member of the Commission
Points which could be covered by codes of practice for contracts negotiated at a distance:
- Dissemination of solicitations for custom: means to enable consumers not to receive solicitations if they have made it clear that they do not wish to do so.
- Presentation: ethical principles to be respected in all solicitations for custom, especially as regards respect for human dignity and religious or political beliefs.
- Sales promotion: provisions covering sales promotion techniques (reductions, rebates, gifts, lotteries and competitions) to ensure that the principles of fair competition are respected and in particular that the consumer receives clear information.
- Financial security: arrangements to ensure the reimbursement of payments made by consumers at the time of placing an order.
- Right of withdrawal: if the consumer chooses to make use of the right of withdrawal, a period within which payments already made will be reimbursed.
- Knowledge of the code: information for consumers on the existence of the code, its content and the results of its application.