Legal Updates

Commercial: Proposal by European to Curb Sharp Consumer Selling and Advertising Practices

The European Commission has proposed a Minimum Standards EU Directive to protect consumers from pressure selling and misleading marketing practices.

Currently, consumers are constantly faced with a variety of pressure selling tactics and the EU draft Directive is aimed at outlawing all of these practices, such as sellers:

  • misleading consumers into believing that they cannot leave a shop until they sign a contract; or
  • conducting personal visits to the consumers' homes and ignoring the consumer's request when asked to leave or even demanding payment for products that they have supplied that had not been requested by the consumer (inertia selling).

The draft EU Directive lays down general principles:

  • aimed at preventing exploitation of particularly vulnerable consumers; and
  • identifying the types of practices which would be treated as 'unfair' and therefore prohibitive. The key test would be whether these practices would unfairly distort the behaviour of an 'average' consumer

Currently there are numerous misleading marketing practices, for example those that describe certain services as 'free' when in fact they are not. Under the draft Directive, misleading marketing will make it illegal for traders to claim to be signatories to a code of conduct when the traders are not or describe products as "gratis", "free", "without charge" etc., if the consumers have to pay for such services or goods (except delivery or collection costs).

With regard to misleading advertising, the Advertising Standards Authority's self-regulatory codes lay down the standards that advertisements have to meet - any advertisement has to be 'legal, decent, honest or truthful'.


Comment: There is a long way to go in educating consumers on their legal rights, especially in light of the substantial increase in distance selling of goods and services to consumers, including online trading.

If you require further information contact us.


© RT COOPERS, 2005. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.


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