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8. CPC relevant issues

8.1. CPC authorities

Considering the intra-Community infringements[91], it was appropriate to facilitate cooperation between public authorities responsible for enforcement of the laws that protect consumers’ interests and to contribute to the smooth functioning of the internal market. Therefore it was projected to establish a network of public enforcement authorities throughout the Community for the purpose of sharing information.

The Consumer Protection Co-operation Regulation[92] sets the conditions under which the competent authorities in the Member States designated as responsible for the enforcement of the laws that protect consumers’ interests must cooperate with each other and with the Commission in order to ensure compliance with those laws and the smooth functioning of the internal market and in order to enhance the protection of consumers’ economic interests.

The Consumer Protection Co-operation Regulation covers breaches of 15 EU legal acts, including issues such as misleading advertising, package holidays, timeshares and distance selling.

The Consumer Protection Co-operation Network (CPC-Net) was established by the Consumer Protection Co-operation Regulation and is formed by more than 200 authorities responsible for the enforcement of at least one of the legal acts listed in the Regulation. All the authorities in the network have similar investigation and enforcement powers, which include the possibility of carrying out on-site inspections. Each one of them is able to call on any other member in the network for assistance in their investigations and enforcement actions. Simultaneous investigations and common enforcement actions, such as Internet sweeps, can be coordinated through the network. The sweep is a new kind of enforcement action – a systematic check carried out simultaneously in different Member States to investigate breaches of consumer protection law and co-ordinated by the European Commission.

8.2. Cooperation between the ECC-Net and the CPC-Net

The issue of cooperation between the two networks (ECC-Net and CPC-Net) was first discussed at network level in 2007 as they share common elements, i.e. work with the same market players (businesses and consumers), aim for effective consumer protection, contribute to a well-functioning internal market and play a role in addressing breaches of consumer laws in cross-border situations. A clear, concise system of cooperation had to be installed because these two networks not only share common elements, but they also share some important differences: ECCs have no enforcement powers, the CPC authorities do; ECCs deal with individual complaints, the CPC authorities deal with collective interests.

Fig. 36
Fig. 36

In the course of the co-operation between ECC-Net and CPC-Net, the CPC authorities may take measures that help resolve consumer complaints originally filed with ECC-Net. Most of the ECCs cooperate with the CPC authorities in their country, and these cooperation arrangements range from “ad-hoc” arrangements to the signing of formal cooperation agreements. The cooperation arrangements include, notably, the following areas: exchange of case-related or sector-related information through (regular) contacts, case referrals, legal advice, sweeps, awareness-raising measures like information campaigns, specific arrangements related to the case handling of certain types of complaints. Both networks benefit from the cooperation in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness in their work.

8.3. Issues of interest for the CPCs

The questionnaire completed by the project participants also provided information on any breaches of law that the Mystery Shopper experienced during the shopping exercise. As described above, the cooperation between the two networks offers some advantages in the common pursuit of improving conditions in the internal market for consumers.

With these reasons in mind, the members of the working group decided that relevant material should be handed over to the CPC-Net. The members of the working group strongly believe that the problems which were encountered by Mystery Shoppers will most likely also be encountered by other cross-border e-commerce shoppers, and the protection of the collective interest is the competence of CPC-Net. According to the participating ECCs, in 173 cases out of 305 there was an issue that should be of interest to the CPC-Net.

Fig. 37 Anything to report to the CPC authority?
Fig. 37 Anything to report to the CPC authority?

Fig. 37 below also shows that on British (17%), German (10%), Irish (8%), Italian (7%), Austrian (6%), Danish (6%) and French (5%) websites consumers experienced problems which should be reported to the CPC authorities by the ECCs. However, these figures are rather unsurprising given the fact that these countries represent some of the largest e-commerce markets in the internal market. It is not intended to suggest or infer that there are any inherent problems as such with traders in these countries.

Fig. 38 Country of webtrader
Fig. 38 Country of webtrader

The nature of the main problems which should be reported by the ECCs to the CPC authorities are as follows:

[91] Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 of the European Parliament and Council of 27 October 2004 on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws (text with EEA relevance), article 3(b): “any act or omission contrary to the laws that protect consumers’ interests, that harms, or is likely to harm, the collective interests of consumers residing in a Member State or Member States other than the Member State where the act or omission originated or took place; or where the responsible seller or supplier is established; or where evidence or assets pertaining to the act or omission are to be found”.

[92] Ibid.

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This page forms part of the publication "ONLINE CROSS-BORDER MYSTERY SHOPPING – STATE OF THE e-UNION" as chapter 7 of 8.
– STATE OF THE e-UNION" as the preface.
– STATE OF THE e-UNION" as appendix -1.
Version no. 1.0, 2011-08-31
© The Competition and Consumer Authority