In our new law Preview section we mention the intended implementation of the EU Distance Selling Directive, due to be law in all EU states by 4/6/00.
Topic: Distance selling
Who: The DTI
When: June 2000
In our new law Preview section we mention the intended implementation of the EU Distance Selling Directive, due to be law in all EU states by 4/6/00. When the DTI’s consultation paper was published with proposed regulations in November 1999, all seemed set fair for the deadline being met, but in recent weeks the continuing silence from Whitehall has suggested all is not quite well and this was confirmed on 5 June, when the DTI website announced that there would be delay. It is still hoped that the regulations will be in force before the end of 2000, but the DTI report that there are a "number of key and complex issues" still under consideration.
These apparently relate particularly to (a) the impact of e commerce on business to consumer sales, in its infancy when the Directive was signed off in 1997, the (2) the rather ominous sounding "appropriate sanctions" to ensure compliance (3) the right to cancel, in particular the consumer’s right to hold on to goods until a refund is made and (4) an effective approach to tackle SPAM or unsolicited commercial e mail.
Why this matters:
More and more commentators are uneasy about the practicality of a number of provisions in the Directive, for example the requirements as to the provision before contract formation of a raft of data, otherwise any ensuing sale contract will be unenforceable and a criminal offence committed. And what is the position for example in the case of orders placed using WAP telecoms technology, where there are obvious difficulties with provision of extensive pre contract information? The position regarding goods already supplied under contracts then cancelled is also unclear. Does the consumer’s obligation to "restore" the goods entail a duty to deliver them back, even in the case of a three piece suite? And do "services" extend to the opportunity to enter a prize promotion, thus entitling an entrant to cancel and pull out of the promotion within 7 days? Insiders say that the delays stem from a failure to appreciate fully the extensive ramifications of the Directive and the allocation of too few DTI resources to its implementation. Whatever the full story behind the announcement, all will not be coming clear for some months. In the meantime, marketers should make the most of the continuing lack of statutory control (outside data protection rules and ISP subscription contracts) over unsolicited marketing by e mail or post, both areas where the Distance Selling Regulations will make changes.