The European Commission this week launched a new online guide setting out the digital rights that consumers enjoy under EU law.

The 'eYouGuide', launched by the Commission in Strasbourg on 5 May, seeks to offer citizens "practical advice" on consumers' digital rights. 

These include rights towards broadband providers, online shopping, downloading music and protecting personal data online, particularly when using social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace. 

The eYouGuide tells online shoppers that they have the right to: 

  • Clear information about prices and conditions before making a purchase; 
  • Decide if and how their personal data is treated; 
  • Have goods delivered within thirty days of purchase; 
  • A minimum 'cooling-off' period of seven working days after purchase for consumers to change their mind. 
  • Protection against rogue vendors, and unfair contractual terms and commercial practices. 

The Commission hopes that giving consumers clear information about their rights "will increase trust and help unlock the full economic potential of Europe's single online market, worth €106 billion in revenues". 

"The screen is the new marketplace," said EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, warning that "the online single market will only be a success for business if consumers have confidence in the online environment". 

According to the EU executive, "consumers can be sure that all these rights apply" on the three million websites ending with the suffix '.eu'. All such sites must be registered by a person or company established in the EU, and they are subject to the bloc's laws. 

Consumers 'worried' about online shopping 

Nevertheless, "lots of consumers are put off buying goods on the Internet. They are worried that goods purchased online won't be delivered or will be faulty, and they don't know what to do if there are problems," said Commissioner Kuneva. "The guide clarifies all of these aspects." 

Despite welcoming the guide's launch, the European Digital Media Association (EdiMa) warned that "the presence of different rules and regulations across Europe hampers cross-border consumer confidence and can be difficult for users to understand and navigate". 

'Digital Agenda' launched 

Addressing these concerns, the Commission's consumer affairs and information society departments this week launched a 'Digital Agenda' for consumer rights. 

The eight-point plan aims to establish "multi-territorial licensing regimes" for digital content like music and films, end the fragmentation of laws on private copying of copyrighted content, improve privacy policies, boost confidence in online payments and combat spam, among others.