News Column

Online Retailers Fail to Protect Consumer Rights, EU Warns

Dec. 6, 2012

Most websites selling digital music, games, books and videos in the European Union fail to offer adequate consumer protection, the bloc's executive warned Thursday as consumers geared up for seasonal shopping.

Of more than 300 websites examined during a sweep, 76 per cent appeared not to comply with EU consumer protection laws, according to the European Commission.

While 80 per cent of European consumers had downloaded music and 60 per cent had downloaded games in the last two months, "one out of every four customers experienced some kind of problem," said EU Commissioner for Consumer Affairs Tonio Borg.

He said around 70 per cent of all websites checked were operated on unfair terms, refusing assistance in the case of download problems for example. Other websites did not inform customers that a product could not be returned once it was downloaded.

"A quarter of all websites do not provide customers with the trader's identity and email address, which of course then makes redress for after-sale inquiries practically impossible," Borg added.

He warned in particular against online games that are advertised as free, but require the purchase of add-ons to advance through the game. Children were particularly susceptible to this, he added.

"Parents have to be careful that their children do not fall prey to such practices," Borg warned, adding that 71 per cent of websites selling games to children under the age of 14 appeared "problematic."

National authorities are now tasked with ensuring that online retailers bring their websites in line with EU laws, under threat of fines or even closure.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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