Steps made to protect buyers digital products

The European Union wants to implement buyer protection that applies to digital products. The initiative is part of the larger plan of creating a Digital Single Market, wherein European countries will operate under the same rules and regulations. Next to the ban of geoblocking etc., this buyers protection is part of a large initiative spearheaded by EU Commissioner for Single Digital Market, Andris Ansup. 

A big change in this policy is the fact that a buyer no longer has to prove that a digital product was not working properly (or defect) at the time of purchase, which is the case under current legislation. This obligation is now the seller’s. European consumer organisation BEUC is disappointed, however, that the burden of proof, though moved to the seller rather than buyer, only stands for a year. This implicitly means that the warranty period of digital purchases is limited to one year. 

Buyer protection also includes social media

One very notable addition in this new legislation, is the fact that ‘free’ services such as FaceBook and Google will also be subjected to the buyer protection; European consumer organisation BEUC argues that this is necessary, since users of these free platforms actually ‘pay’ for usage in the form of data. Therefore, the BEUC finds that it is only logical that the same buyer protection is applied here, as if the services are actually paid for with money. However, the scope of this protection has been limited to only cover instances wherein personal data of a customer is used (i.e. name, pictures, etc.). The new legislation will not cover data collected anonymously from users. The BEUC actually considers this a setback. Why, is not explicitly stated, but could have to do with the fact that the anonymous collection of data is not outlined into guidelines that favor consumers. Naturally, the main focus of a consumer organisation is the buyer rather than the seller.

Streaming: borders lifted

Aside from tackling the restrictions on buyer protection, the EU has also expressed their intention to lift borders and the accompanying limitations on streaming possibilities. So, for example, as a user of streaming services it should become possible to access your paid streaming services anywhere in the world. The legislation is set to be implemented on 1 January 2018, and will only apply to paid services, e.g. Netflix etc. 

The question remains, however, how many consumers actually try to access streaming services in from another country; according to a survey from late 2015, fewer than 1 in ten European consumers attempted to access streaming services in another country. The distinction between paid and free streaming services was not even made in this survey, which begs the question how many consumers on average are actually feel hindered by these digital borders. 


Though there is something to be said for protecting consumer rights, particularly in the case of impossible obligations such as proving the software you’ve purchased doesn’t work (not every consumer can be a digital expert or even native), there are limitations. Particularly when it comes to digital downloads, such as a movie, the consumer will have to expressly agree to terms and conditions and may not be able to appeal to buyer protection. In any case, the widened scope of buyer protection and the gradually dimishing digital borders point to significant shifts in the ecommerce landscape once again. 

Source: RTL Z  

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