As part of its Digital Agenda for Europe initiative, the European Commission has published a Code of EU Online Rights (“the Code”) designed to educate citizens on their fundamental rights when connecting to and using the internet. The Code does not introduce new law, but instead compiles and summarises in plain language the rights and principles codified in existing EU law.
Whilst the Code’s primary purpose is to increase consumer awareness and promote the greater use of online services, it also serves as a useful reminder to online service providers and traders of the duties they owe users and customers under EU legislation and should form part of their compliance checklist.
In summary, the Code covers the following areas:
Access and use of online services
- Access to electronic communications services: everyone in the EU must have the possibility to access a minimum set of electronic communications services of good quality at an affordable price (the ‘universal service’ principle).
- Access to services and applications of your choice: everyone in the EU shall be able to access and distribute any information and run any application and service of their choice through electronic communication networks (the principle of ‘open and neutral character of the internet’).
- Non-discrimination when accessing online services: consumers must not be provided with less favourable conditions of access to online services based purely on which Member State they are resident in.
- Rights of privacy and protection of personal data: every individual has the right to adequate protection of his personal data and the processing of personal data must be necessary, fair, lawful and proportionate.
- Rights to key information before making an online purchase: every consumer in the EU has the right to receive clear, correct and comprehensible key information from a trader before making an online purchase.
- Rights to timely, clear and complete contractual information: after making an online purchase, every consumer has the right to receive confirmation of the key elements of the contract either in writing or by email.
- Fair contract terms & conditions: traders’ contract terms must not create an unreasonable imbalance to the detriment of the consumer.
- Protection against unfair practices: consumers must not be mislead or exposed to aggressive marketing and any consumer has the right to complain to the national enforcement authorities or to take legal action against a trader in the EU that uses unfair commercial practices.
- Rights of delivery and cancellation: traders must deliver goods or services ordered online to consumers within 30 days. Consumers can request a repair or replacement free of charge if goods they receive are faulty or do not correspond to what they have ordered.
- Withdrawal from a contract: consumers in the EU have at least seven days to change their minds about goods or services they have ordered online from a trader.
Access to justice
- Access to justice and dispute resolution: everyone whose rights and freedoms (as guaranteed by European legislation) have been violated has the right to an effective remedy before a tribunal.
The Code can be accessed here: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/code-eu-online-rights