On 20 June 2008, Meglena Kuneva, the Consumer Commissioner, made a speech on the Commission's priorities for consumer policy in the digital age. In this speech Miss Kuneva highlighted particular areas of concern for the Commission and signalled various legislative changes that might be made in order to address these concerns.
In particular, the Commissioner commented that in order to remove internal market areas, the Commission has considered revising the vertical agreements block exemption (Regulation 2790/1999) to reflect the appropriateness or otherwise of restrictions imposed by suppliers to distribution over the internet. This comment has been considered as being part of the review of the block exemption which will be taking place prior to its expiry on 31 May 2010.
Other highlighted priorities include plans for a single framework on consumer contract law which reflects the concerns of the digital age, and also seeking to remove artificial geographic restrictions on internet sales. This will be particularly important in light of the Commission's dim view of practices such as the differentiation in prices for downloading files from sites such as Apple's i-Store. For instance in 2004 the Commission noted that in the USA a song could be downloaded for 99 cents (approximately 50 pence). However, in England, that same song could be downloaded for 79 pence, while in France the cost of downloads was 99 cents (European), which was approximately 74p. The rising strength of the Euro against the pound has dealt firmly with the iTunes problem across Europe; however, the practice is widespread throughout various industries and has attracted the displeasure of the Commission on numerous occasions.
In addition, Miss Kuneva stated that the Commission is seeking to clarify how existing consumer rights apply in the digital space, and is working hard to ensure that issues relating to privacy data collection and profiling do not adversely effect trust in e-commerce and digital communications. She commented that the Commission considers that the internet platform provides opportunities for consumers which did not exist before now. However, in the increasingly fast-paced world of internet commerce, any failures to remove regulatory barriers, to keep the market free from rapidly evolving scams and misleading practices, and to address key consumer issues of privacy and trust, will unnecessarily slow down these exciting developments, and must be avoided.