The European Parliament has backed the idea of a new 'trust mark' to give consumers peace of mind when shopping online, urging Brussels to come up with proposals on the issue.
The new logo would curb fraud, guarantee the reliability and quality of goods sold over the Internet and help complete the digital internal market, according to MEPs.
The own-initiative report by Spanish MEP Pablo Arias Echeverria (European People's Party) won the overwhelming support of the Parliament yesterday (21 September) and will feed into the new directive on consumers' rights.
The trust mark will also feature in the debate over the EU executive's proposed Code of EU Online Rights, which will be issued by 2012.
Echeverria wants the new mark to be based on EU law and supervised by the Commission. It should be implemented in cooperation with existing trust mark labels in member states and backed up by standards enforcement mechanisms at national level, according to the report.
"E-commerce is a tool with great potential to reshape and improve the competitiveness of the EU economy and the European internal market, and can provide great value and opportunities to European citizens and businesses at this time of financial strain," said Echeverria.
"It is vital that EU leaders implement the necessary measures to overcome remaining barriers in e-commerce, and create trust and transparency so that both citizens and businesses can fully exploit its benefits," he added.
MEPs are also keen to end discrimination against cross-border customers. Online sales are often hindered by foreign traders refusing to accept orders from consumers living in another EU country.
The Parliament expressed regret that the Services Directive has still not been fully transposed into the laws of some member states and called for an end to discrimination against consumers on the basis of their electronic address or residence.
MEPs also want a degree of harmonisation of some aspects of consumer contract law, especially regarding how warranty claims are handled.
Trust marks are not without controversy. Debate on the Information to Patients Directive has included proposals for a European authenticity mark on websites containing authorised information on medicines. This has met with scepticism amid fears they would quickly be faked (EURACTIV 21/05/10).