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Proposal for a directive on certain aspects concerning contracts for the online and other distance sales of goods

This Directive covers rules applicable to the online and other distance sales of goods only in relation to key contract elements needed to overcome contract-law related barriers in the Digital Single Market.

The key substantive provisions of this proposal cover the main differences of national consumer mandatory rules following the Member States implementation of the minimum harmonisation rules of Directive 1999/44/EC. It is those main differences on national rules which affect traders’ decision whether or to which extent to sell goods cross-border.

Proposal (de) provides for a full harmonisation of the conformity criteria for the goods, of the hierarchy of the remedies, available to consumers and of the periods for the reversal of burden of proof and the legal guarantees. Proposal leaves provisions on the consumer’s right to receive compensation for the losses caused by such lack of conformity to national laws.

This Directive does not apply to goods like DVDs and CDs incorporating digital content in such a way that the goods function only as a carrier of the digital content, neither it applies to distance contracts for provision of services. However, it applies to goods like household appliances or toys where the digital content is embedded in such a way that its functions are subordinate to the main functionalities of the goods and it operates as an integral part of the goods.

Article 7 contains an additional conformity requirement relating to the legal defects goods may have. According to that rule the goods must be clear of any third-party rights, including those based on intellectual property.

Article 9 lists the remedies for lack of conformity the consumer has available by fully harmonising the order in which remedies could be exercised. In a first step the consumer should be entitled to have the goods repaired or replaced within a reasonable time and without any significant inconvenience. In a second step the consumer should be entitled to a price reduction or to terminate the contract where the lack of conformity is not or cannot be remedied through repair or replacement. The article also provides the consumer with the right to withhold performance until the goods are brought in conformity.

In order to bring clarity and certainty for sellers and consumers the Directive should define the notion of a contract. This definition follows the common traditions of all Member States by requiring an agreement intended to give rise to obligations or other legal effects for a contract to exist.

Conformity should cover material defects as well as legal defects. Third party rights and other legal defects might effectively bar the consumer from enjoying the goods in accordance with the contract when the right’s holder rightfully compels the consumer to stop infringing those rights. Therefore the seller should ensure that the goods are free from any right of a third party, which precludes the consumer from enjoying the goods in accordance with the contract.