Category Archives: consumer

New guidelines for E-commerce

 “Shopping online is an easy way for consumers to shop, but it shouldnevercome at the expense of safety. With the new guidelines, national surveillance authorities will be able to check products bought online and ensure that all products sold in Europe are safeOur latest figures show that trust in e-commerce is growing. Today’s safety measures will further contribute to this trend and reassure consumers. It’s our duty to make sure online commerce is as safe as traditional shopping.” said Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.

The Commission has issued guidelines to help national market surveillance authorities better control products sold online. In 2017, 55% of Europeans buy online (2017 Consumer Scoreboard) and get products shipped directly to their door, escaping the authorities’ traditional controls. Some of these products might be dangerous and not in line with EU product safety laws, for instance toys containing substances banned in the EU. The guidelines published today clarify: 1) that any product sold online to the EU has to comply with EU product legislation, even if the producer is based outside the EU; 2) the obligations of online marketplaces when authorities require them to remove dangerous products through the ‘notice and action procedure’, as defined in the e-commerce directive; and 3) the responsibility of all actors in the supply chain, including fulfilment service providers who receive the order, package and send the product.

Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, added: “With rising online sales, national market surveillance authorities find controlling and tracing products sold on-line increasingly complex. This guidance will ensure Europeans can shop online safely while further measures to strengthen market surveillance in Europe are planned for later this year.” As outlined in the 2015 Single Market Strategy, the Commission is working on a package of measures later this year that will open up more opportunities to companies that want to expand cross-border and keep unsafe and non-compliant products out from the EU market.

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EU cross-border online shopping growing

“My priority has been to improve trust of the people and smaller retailers in the Digital Single Market. Consumers are now more confident when they shop online. And we’ve equipped them with a quick procedure to get their money back if something goes wrong, even when buying from another country. The challenge now is to encourage more businesses to respond to this growing demand.” Said Commissioner Jourová.

The 2017 edition of the Consumer Conditions Scoreboard shows that more and more EU consumers are shopping online and that their trust in e-commerce has increased, in particular in buying online from other EU countries. For retailers, however, the Scoreboard shows that many are still reluctant to expand their online activities and continue to have concerns about selling online to consumers in other EU countries. Such concerns are mainly linked to a higher risk of fraud and non-payment in cross-border sales, different tax regulations, differences in national contract law and in consumer protection rules. While consumer conditions have improved overall since the last Scoreboard, the levels of trust, knowledge and protection still vary greatly between EU Member States. The Scoreboard also shows that consumer trust in e-commerce has dramatically increased. In ten years the share of Europeans buying online has almost doubled (from 29.7% in 2007 to 55% in 2017). Since the last Scoreboard consumers’ levels of trust have increased by 12 percentage points for purchases from retailers located in the same country and by 21 percentage points for purchases from other EU Member States.

Europol, dismantled illegal horse meat trading

The Spanish Guardia Civil, in coordination with Europol, has dismantled an organised crime group that was trading horsemeat in Europe that was unfit for human consumption. The operation was carried out in coordination with Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In Spain, 65 people were arrested and charged with crimes such as animal abuse, document forgery, perverting the course of justice, crimes against public health, money laundering and being part of a criminal organisation.

Beefburgers in 2013

In 2013, Irish authorities detected beefburgers containing horsemeat. This marked the start of an investigation to find out the origin of the contamination; the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone was found in the meat. Meat companies, frozen food companies and fast-food companies were affected by the investigation, which led to the identification of a Dutch citizen known in the horsemeat world, although his whereabouts were unknown at that moment.

In the summer of 2016, Guardia Civil’s Environmental Protection Service initiated Operation Gazel after unusual behaviour was detected in horsemeat markets. They detected a scam whereby horses in bad shape, too old or simply labelled as “not suitable for consumption” were being slaughtered in two different slaughterhouses. The animals came from Portugal and several places in northern Spain, their meat was processed in a specific facility and from there sent to Belgium, which is one of the biggest horsemeat exporters in the European Union. The criminal organisation forged the animals’ identification by modifying theirs microchips and documentation.

Main suspect arrested in Belgium

During the investigation, Guardia Civil was able to locate the Dutch businessman related to the Irish case of the beefburgers containing horse meat, in Calpe, Alicante. From there he led the activities of the organisation, putting his most trusted men in charge in every country affected by the scam.

Investigators concluded that the Spanish element of this organisation was a small part of the whole European structure controlled by the Dutch suspect. The arrest of the leader of the criminal group was carried out in Belgium. This action was coordinated by the Federal Police, the Federal Food Agency in Belgium and Guardia Civil. Different police actions were simultaneously carried out in France, Portugal, Italy, Romania, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

In total 66 individuals were arrested or investigated. Three officers from Europol supported the Spanish actions in Alicante and León. As a result of all of these actions, several bank accounts and properties were blocked or seized, and five luxury cars seized.

Because of the international nature of this case, Guardia Civil asked Europol for its support in the operation. Europol has worked actively in all necessary actions, including coordination, first contact with other affected countries in order to initiate investigations, and summoning and supporting all involved agencies for coordination and analysis meetings in The Hague, where all the information was studied and processed.

During the searches at the slaughterhouses and facilities, several samples were taken. The results concluded that the destination of the horsemeat was mainly outside of Spain, due to the fact that the samples in Spain matched those found abroad.