Modernisation of consumer legislation with amendments to the Consumers’ Protection Act

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With the amendments proposed to the Consumers’ Protection Act, we are now awaiting the final transposition of Directive (EU) 2019/2161 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 November 2019 amending Council Directive 93/13/EEC and Directives 98/6/EC, 2005/29/EC and 2011/83/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to better enforcement and modernisation of consumer protection rules in the Union (Directive 2019/2161), which should have already been a fact, but due to the political situation, this process has remained in the background. The law is expected to be finally adopted in February 2022.

The expected changes are in several directions:

The substantive scope of the Consumers’ Protection Act is expected to be extended to cover the provision of “free” digital content (digital content provided in exchange for personal data) and the provision of digital services to ensure the protection of consumers of digital content and digital services in distance and off-premises contracts.

Practices where traders present inauthentic and false consumer reviews, whether for the purpose of advertising a product or not, will also be regarded as unfair commercial practices. Traders will be prohibited from submitting fake consumer reviews and endorsements, such as ‘likes’ on social media, or commissioning others to do so in order to promote their products, as well as from manipulating consumer reviews and endorsements, such as publishing only positive reviews and deleting the negative ones[1].

A prohibition is also provided for the unfair commercial practice where traders are reselling to consumers tickets to cultural and sports events that they have acquired by using software such as ‘bots’ enabling them to buy tickets in excess of the technical limits imposed by the primary ticket seller or to bypass any other technical means put in place by the primary seller to ensure accessibility of tickets for all individuals[2].

In relation to unfair practices, new individual consumer remedies are also provided. Those who have suffered damage as a result of unfair commercial practices will, in addition to having the right to rescind the contract, now have the possibility to claim a price reduction or compensation for damage suffered as a result of the unfair practice.

The Law proposed will now regulate the activities of online marketplaces. These are the so-called platforms through which both traders and non-traders can offer goods and services to consumers. This includes price comparison platforms, social networks through which goods are sold and the so-called online marketplaces. The law aims at transparency and information for visitors to these marketplaces. Their operators will be obliged to provide information to the end consumer about the quality of the person they are buying from – whether they are a trader or not – and in case they are not, they will be obliged to inform that the consumer is not protected by the consumers’ legislation in the country and in the EU.

There is also a requirement to disclose the key parameters by which the results are ranked when searched by a user. In short, this means that where a trader has directly or indirectly paid the provider of the online search functionality to obtain a higher ranking for a product among the search results, the provider should inform users of this fact in a concise, easily accessible and understandable form.

With regard to penalties – the amount of fines and pecuniary sanctions for infringements of the provisions of the CPA is increased, in particular with regard to “widespread infringements” and “widespread infringements with a Union dimension”, with regard to the latter a pecuniary sanction of up to 4 per cent of the turnover realised by the trader in the previous financial year in the EU Member State concerned or in each of the EU Member States participating in the coordinated activity is provided for, In cases where no information is available – a pecuniary sanction up to 3 920 000 leva is provided.

The new rules should apply in the country from 28.05.2022.

 

[1] Recital 49 of Directive (EU) 2019/2161

[2] Recital 50 of Directive (EU) 2019/2161

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