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News - 24 February 2007

Online shopping takes one step forward and three steps back

No one would argue that the Internet has revolutionised shopping. Any retailer who has not cottoned on to this fact is missing out on an important and highly profitable revenue stream. But new EU proposal are threatening the success of the internet as a retail resource.

A European Commission proposal on contractual arrangements affecting companies selling on the internet will require online retailers to adhere to the 27 different sets of consumer protection laws in each EU member state.

The FSB has raised concerns that the regulation, while costing UK firms millions of pounds in legal advice, could also prevent many companies from providing online information about their prices and products.

The FSB maintains that even though the UK has opted out of this area of EU legislation it will still apply to UK firms that sell in those countries that have opted in.

"This proposal would send shopping back into the dark ages. It is short-sighted and does not assist consumers – it restricts their choice," said Tina Sommer, EU affairs spokesman for the FSB.

"To introduce these proposals would force many businesses to remove information from their websites. They would not be able to afford specialised legal advice to understand consumer laws in every EU member state," she added.

"We speak on behalf of our members who are also consumers, many are self-employed, and so buy as individuals. This proposal does not protect buyers; it merely adds to the EU red tape burden and returns us to the pre-internet burden. The EU needs to think again."


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